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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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El Salvadoran’s Changing Story Costs Her Asylum

(CN) - The 8th Circuit denied asylum to a Christian counselor from El Salvador, saying "the number of incidents of past persecution that (she) claims to have suffered changed with each step of the asylum application process."

Irene Clemente-Giron claimed that the El Salvadoran police persecuted her because she worked as a counselor for the Ministerio Liberacion, a group that teaches convicted criminals and gang members about the Bible.

In her application for asylum, she listed only one incident where police allegedly broke up her prayer group in the middle of a soccer field, pulled her aside for interrogation and threatened to throw her in jail if they saw her again.

During an interview with an asylum officer a year later, she described another incident where police allegedly stormed her home while she was praying and arrested everyone. The asylum officer found her testimony "not credible due to internal inconsistencies."

Clemente-Giron then hired an attorney, who helped her file an affidavit detailing two more alleged incidents. One involved plain-clothes police who allegedly threatened her daughter after church. In the second, police purportedly covered her mouth and eyes, threatened her, and told her to stop "doing spiritual work."

The affidavit also revealed that Clemente-Giron had allegedly been raped during the incident she listed on her asylum application.

The immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals both rejected her request for asylum based on the evolving nature of her claims.

The federal appeals court in St. Louis agreed.

"These inconsistencies are not minor," Judge Gruender wrote. "Instead, they go to the heart of Clemente-Giron's asylum claim, which is predicated on her assertions that the police persecuted her because of her religious and political beliefs."

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Wollman disagreed with the BIA's premise "that fear and shame resulting from sexual assault 'fail to provide any convincing explanation' for a petitioner's reluctance to reveal her abuse."

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