W.G.A. v. Sessions, No. 16-4193 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
In 2015, tattooed members of the Mara 18 gang, having previously abducted his brother, held a gun to W.G.A.’s head and threatened to kill him. With its rival, MS‐13, Mara 18 terrorizes the Salvadoran population and government. The gangs have orchestrated labor strikes and plotted to bomb government buildings. They brag about influencing elections and controlling political campaigns. They extort millions of dollars from businesses and are largely responsible for El Salvador’s homicide rate. Days after the threat, W.G.A. fled to the U.S. DHS apprehended him and began removal proceedings. W.G.A. applied for asylum, statutory withholding of removal, and deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, arguing that the gang would kill him if he returned to El Salvador. The IJ denied his applications. The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Seventh Circuit granted W.G.A.’s petition for review and remanded. W.G.A. established persecution based on his membership in a qualifying social group--family members of tattooed former Salvadoran gang members. Country reports and news articles throughout the record demonstrate widespread recognition that Salvadoran gangs target families to enforce their orders and discourage defection. The IJ and BIA did not address the extensive record, describing how corruption, judges’ refusal to protect witness anonymity, and the police’s fear of reprisal, allow gangs to act with impunity.