Thursday, May 2, 2002
Guatemalan Colonel’s Family Established Persecution by Rebels, Court Rules
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A peace accord between the Guatemalan government and guerrillas who threatened an asylum-seeker and her son and killed her husband did not so alter conditions in the Central American nation that asylum here was no longer available, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The panel overturned rulings by an immigration judge and an immigration appeals panel and ordered Attorney General John Ashcroft to reconsider asylum for Julia Floridalma Rios and her son, Paulo Jordan-Rios. The court also stopped deportation proceedings.
The court ruled that the petitioners—the wife and son of a Guatemalan army colonel who played a key role in combating rebels—have established a well-founded fear of persecution at the hands of the anti-government forces since the group that killed Hector Hugo Cordon also kidnapped and stabbed Rios and tried to abduct Jordan-Rios.
The fact that the group is now out of hiding and a legitimate political party in Guatemala does not overcome the fear of retribution against Cordon’s family, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for a three-judge panel. It was mere speculation on the part of the immigration judge that persecution would cease, Pregerson said.
“Contrary to the [immigration judge’s] conclusion that conditions in Guatemala have changed, the record reflects that [Rios’ brother] was murdered by guerillas the same year that the peace accord was signed, and Rios declared that guerrillas continue to exist in Patin, where her husband Hector headed the military command,” Pregerson said. “Moreover, the 1998 [State Department] Country Report that was produced as evidence of changed country conditions by the INS reported that ‘[l]ynchings, mob attacks, and unsolved killings continued, and the Government frequently was unable to prosecute the perpetrators.’”
Rios was kidnapped in June 1990 as she walked home from work. She was blindfolded, tied up, and ordered into the back seat of a car where rebels told her they were going to take revenge for the deaths of their comrades at the hands of her husband.
One of the guerrillas cut her hand with a knife.
She was released three days later without explanation and spent a month receiving treatment for her hand in a military hospital.
The following year, a man grabbed Paulo outside his military school. The boy was rescued by soldiers. But several months later Cordon was abducted and presumed killed.
Rios and Paulo used tourist visas to go to the U.S. in 1991. They applied for asylum four years later, but were denied by an immigration judge who also rejected their request for withholding of deportation.
The judge reasoned that Guatemala had changed since the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity Guerillas signed a peace accord in 1996. The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed, but the Ninth Circuit ruling returns the matter to Ashcroft, who has discretion to grant asylum.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company