“In Honduras, a dead woman is just a statistic.” – Mother of murder victim Contracorriente, August 8, 2020

Having requested asylum in 2016, a Honduran survivor of extreme domestic violence and her two daughters have finally won their case after seven tedious years of uncertainty.

The trek through the legal system by “Carmen” and her children involved two immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – plus countless hours of pro bono and low-bono legal assistance by Asylum Program of Arizona (APA) board attorneys and attorneys recruited for Carmen by APA.

APA negotiated and paid all attorney fees (totaling less than $3,000), with most work provided for free by APA attorneys and others.

Having suffered frequent brutal beatings at the hands of her violent domestic partner while authorities turned a blind eye, Carmen and her children fled Honduras. Her partner had vowed to kill her if she left him.

Honduras has the highest femicide rate in the Latin American region, with 6.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.  – UN Sustainable Development Group, December 2021

In 2016, APA recruited Mo Goldman, a private attorney, to help Carmen apply for asylum. Mo represented her in Immigration Court. 

Immigrants may qualify for asylum if they can prove a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. 

Mo argued that Carmen qualified for asylum based on her membership in a social group – battered Honduran women who are unable to escape a domestic relationship. The Obama Administration had recognized such groups as valid for asylum purposes.  

The judge denied asylum based on what lawyers on APA’s board determined was faulty reasoning. APA recruited another attorney who appealed Carmen’s case to the BIA. It was again denied.

APA helped Carmen file papers to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and to request appointment of pro bono counsel. Ultimately, the case was sent back to the Immigration Court, this time with a different judge.

That judge agreed with Carmen’s attorney that evidence of country conditions combined with Carmen’s testimony showed that her fear of persecution was well founded given her own abuse history and lack of an effective police response to domestic violence. She won asylum in August 2023.

(Honduran) Women who dare to report domestic violence do not receive timely care and attention – they are not safe – and this can end in femicide. Contracorriente, August 8, 2020


Many thanks to those who provided Carmen with legal assistance for little or no remuneration:

  • University of Arizona Immigration Law Clinic students conducted the initial client interview and prepared a detailed memorandum for case referral.
  • The APA board of directors approved funding and Board President Lynn Marcus, recruited attorney Mo Goldman to represent Carmen at a low bono rate
  • Shefali Desai handled the case pro bono before the BIA.          
  • APA volunteer attorney Erika Kreider prepared all paperwork to launch the appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court and continued to help the client over the years with work authorization renewals and other matters.
  • Attorneys at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher handled the Ninth Circuit appeal.
  • Lynn wrote a brief arguing to the BIA that the case should be granted or sent back to the Immigration Court.
  • Mo again represented Carmen in Immigration Court, this time pro bono.