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Salvadoran Asylum Seekers in the US

According to 2016 US asylum statistics from the US Department of Justice and the 2016 Immigration Year Book, El Salvador is now the 2nd most common country of origin for people who are granted asylum in the United States. There is a steady increase in numbers of asylum seekers from El Salvador over the years as conditions in the country lead some to flee for their safety.

Why Do People from El Salvador Request Asylum?

There are two main circumstances that usually drive Salvadorans to apply for asylum in the US. While other reasons may also exist, there two circumstances are the most commonly seen on asylum applications in the United States:

  • Gang Related Claims

Gang violence and asylum claims related to gang activity have increased since 2013. The rise of major gang wars within El Salvador has led to many seeking asylum in local countries, such as Belize or Mexico, or making the longer trek to the United States for an attempt at asylum.

Gangs in El Salvador frequently use violence, threats of violence, and extortion to fund their operations. They are also known to forcefully recruit new members through similar methods. Those they attempt to recruit range widely in age, including some as young as 8 or 9 years old, but often include teenagers and young adults.

For those from El Salvador seeking asylum, gang recruitment is one of the largest factors. Most asylum claims happen on the grounds of fear of being forced to join a gang or the repercussions of refusing to join. Another common reason is having left a gang in El Salvador, which would result in a penalty of death if the deserter was discovered by the gang they had left. As a former gang member, asylum in the US represents safety from the far-reaching Salvadoran gangs.

Gangs in El Salvador are considered to be a group that the government is unable to control, because of the immense size of the main gangs and their power over certain areas of the country. The main challenge for Salvadoran asylum seekers with gang-based asylum claims is to show that they fit at least one of the criteria set by the US government for asylum protections. They must prove that they were targeted by the gang because of one of the 5 protected reasons, most commonly their membership in a particular social group. This is part of the US asylum requirements.

  • Civil War Related Claims

Although rare today, some Salvadorans are still able to claim asylum based on severe past persecution or fear of future persecution based on their involvement in the civil war, which took place from 1979 to 1991. These claims are often difficult to substantiate today, based on the current conditions of the country and improvements that have happened since the war.

Some applicants may still be successful in their claims of asylum based on the civil war in El Salvador, but the case can be difficult to make. An experienced asylum attorney may be able to help you better evaluate your claim and explore potential options in front of you.

Statistics about Salvadoran Asylum Claims

  • 753 Salvadorans were granted US asylum in 2016, accounting for 8.63% of total grants (US Department of Justice)
  • Asylum grants to people from El Salvador have increased from 191 in 2012 to their current 2016 levels (US Department of Justice)
  • In 2015, El Salvador was 4th on the list of asylum grants by country, jumping to 2nd in 2016 (US Department of Justice)
  • Salvadorans accounted for 12.92% of appeals to the BIA on asylum claims in 2016 (US Department of Justice)
  • 7,914 unaccompanied children from El Salvador were apprehended on the US border in 2016 (Pew Research).
  • Unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras represent the largest number of asylum applications from unaccompanied minors in the US (Carnegie Council)
  • For those from El Salvador, gang violence asylum is the most common reason for applying for asylum.

Potential Immigration Laws Affecting Salvadoran Claims to Asylum

Although current and future asylum applications are not likely to be affected by any new administrative policies so far, Salvadorans holding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) because of the 2001 earthquakes are set to have their privileges revoked by September of 2019. This is not set to affect gang asylum cases for Salvadorans.

Asylum can be a difficult process to endure. When looking at US asylum for Salvadorans, the chances of getting asylum may depend on the kind of legal representation they receive and how their application is presented. We are experienced in US asylum cases from people of many different nationalities. Please contact us today for a free consultation about your asylum claim.