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Kroc School TBI Team Helps to Win a Critical Asylum Case

Wednesday, May 1, 2019TOPICS: ChangemakerFaculty and StaffFieldworkGlobal ImpactUS-Mexico BorderHuman Rights and Security

US Court of Appeals Decision
begin quoteThe couple fled together and tried to settle elsewhere in Mexico, only to have their family punished in what the Court called “shockingly brutal ways.”

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a lengthy decision in favor of an asylum seeker from Mexico, and set a critical precedent that will make it easier for many families fleeing violence at the hands of organized crime to seek protection in the United States. The Kroc School's Trans-Border Institute (TBI) Director Everard Meade, PhD, served as the expert witness in the case and Kroc School students helped him to prepare a detailed report and present oral testimony in 2017. The Court cites Professor Meade’s testimony at length in its decision.

The decision is public, along with the details of the case, allowing a unique window on work that the Kroc School's TBI team is normally prohibited from discussing. Immigration proceedings are confidential, and protecting asylum seekers from reprisal by guarding the details of their cases is standard operating procedure. 

This case involved a couple who ran a food stall in a small town outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco. The local cartel boss kidnapped and raped the wife, claimed her as his own, and then threatened the husband if he didn’t leave the state. The couple fled together and tried to settle elsewhere in Mexico, only to have their family punished in what the Court called “shockingly brutal ways.”

The immigration judge found the husband credible, and granted him protection from deportation under the Convention Against Torture, but not asylum (and thus no path to permanent residency or citizenship). His lawyers appealed, but the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied the appeal. The U.S. 7th Circuit reversed the BIA, declaring that he should have been granted asylum.

The principle at stake is whether the family constitutes a “particular social group” — one of the five protected grounds for asylum (along with an applicant’s race, religion, nationality, and political opinion). The persecution a person is fleeing must be “on account of” one of these grounds in order to qualify for asylum. 

The implications are huge. Many asylum seekers from Mexico (and from Central America as well) have been targeted for violence due to their association with a family member. Organized crime targets the family members of those who refuse to pay extortion money, resist forcible recruitment, report their activities to the press or the police, or get involved in all manner of interpersonal disputes with cartel personnel, etc. — this is one of the most common ways that ordinary civilians get sucked into the vortex. 

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made similar findings recently, but this one is far more explicit, and the facts of the case more closely parallel a whole genre of heretofore difficult-to-document cases, effectively setting a new national standard.

Dr. Meade and his students have worked on more than 50 asylum cases from Mexico over the past couple of years, and turned down many more where the facts were not compelling and/or the theory of the case did not fit Dr. Meade’s particular expertise. The work is intense and detail-oriented. Dr. Meade’s average affidavit runs 80 pages and includes more than 150 footnotes. The evidence the Kroc School team gathered is both direct and circumstantial. In most cases the latter evidence is paramount — showing how similarly situated individuals have become victims of violence. Gathering this kind of evidence involves a mix of conventional research and the leveraging of TBI’s partnerships with peacebuilders and human rights organizations in the areas of Mexico most affected by organized crime. The connections and credibility that we cultivate in the field make our expertise possible, and students in our programs aren’t mere spectators; they are an integral part of the process.

How Can I Get Involved?

Check out our academic programs – Kroc School students are directly involved in all of the work we do, including individual asylum cases. 

Enroll in the Trans-Border Opportunities (TBO) Certificate Program this summer! If you want to understand the conditions that asylum seekers are fleeing and the difficulties of seeking protection in the United States, you need to hear from people who can explain them in first-person. TBO field seminars are designed to allow our students to experience some of the physical spaces that define the border and the relationships it shapes. Whether it’s the desolation of the desert and the physical barriers at the border, or the dynamism and hybridity of downtown Tijuana and Barrio Logan, you can’t really understand the phenomena that shape the border without getting into the physical spaces. And the controversies that shape how we frame the border come alive when you see them in person and meet with the people at the center of these issues in their own spaces – whether its immigration and drugs, ecology and culture, or economic growth and gentrification. Registration is now open

We are very happy to answer any questions you may have. Please write to us:


Ev Meade
619 260-4161

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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