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ADELANTE PRO BONO PROJECT WINS SAFETY FOR MIGRANT FAMILY KIDNAPPED, RAPED AND TORTURED IN MEXICO

July 5, 2020

Haiyun Damon-Feng and Erin Carter represented Diana and her two children, Wanda (age 17) and Diego (age 7) in a successful NRI before the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service.  Diana and her children are named plaintiffs in the ACLU's Nora v. Wolf litigation challenging the Migrant Protection Protocols and nonrefoulement process in the Tamaulipas region of Mexico. 


Diana and her children were kidnapped and tortured by members of a local gang on their journey to seek asylum in the U.S., just a few hours from the U.S. border.  Wanda was singled out and brutally gang raped for hours while her mother and brother were held hostage at gunpoint.  Wanda's rapists beat her, held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her if she resisted.  When they had finished with Wanda, they threw her back to her mother, crying and bleeding from her mouth and between her legs.

Wanda and her family asked for asylum and were promptly sent back to Mexico, despite having been kidnapped, held at gunpoint and raped.  Homeless, they found temporary refuge at a migrant tent city along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The migrant encampment was dangerous, unstable and unsanitary.  Wanda was nearly kidnapped and her mother was threatened after trying to report the kidnapping to Mexican authorities.  They saw their neighbors--fellow migrants--be kidnapped and disappeared.  Wanda and her family hid in their tent and did not leave other than to get necessities.  They relied on food donations to eat and bathed when they could afford to pay for showers.

Recently, one of Wanda's rapists found her at the encampment.  He stalked her and watched her all day and night.  He followed her to the bathrooms.  He threatened her, telling her that he could take her at any time.  He told her, "you will be mine."  Wanda lived in fear for her life, and Diana lived in fear for her children's safety and well-being.  They lived in fear for seven months.

The ACLU Immigrant Rights Project brought a complaint on behalf of Diana and other asylum seekers returned to Mexico through MPP despite having been persecuted or tortured in Mexico.  The case is pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The Court granted the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction ordering the government to grant an NRI to Diana, Wanda and Diego.  NRIs have been exceedingly difficult to win, but Diana and her family prevailed.  Haiyun and Erin submitted comprehensive briefing in advance of the NRI and represented Diana, Wanda and Diego during the interview.  Their NRI was granted the same day, and Diana and her children are now safe in the U.S. and living with family.

When they were finally released into the U.S. after a grueling seven-month ordeal, Diana was speechless.  "I can finally breathe again," she said.  "Thank you, thank you, I could not have made it without your help.  Thank you a thousand times, for everything."