Yesica, now age 22, a survivor of sexual assault, torture and the murder of her father, a policeman, seeks asylum and unification with her family in Evanston, Illinois. In detention in Texas, she faces imminent deportation to El Salvador, despite the merits of her case.


  • The asylum case of Yesica’s mother and two younger brothers is in process in the Chicago immigration court and has a 2020 call date. The family lives in a church in Evanston. This church is an “Immigrant Welcoming Congregation” making a commitment to advocate for immigrant justice.
  • In El Salvador, Yesica’s family had been repeatedly accosted and threatened by the gang members of M-13, culminating in the murder of the father in the presence of his family in a public space in their town.
  • Her father had defied the gang’s demands and often assisted his neighbors. Notably, her father refused to hand Yesica over to the gang when they demanded she be turned over. When the gang murdered her father, gang members indicated that Yesica was next to be killed.
  • In response, the family fled. Upon entering the U.S., Yesica’s family was apprehended and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 19 years old at the time, Yesica was separated from her mother Juana, and her two younger brothers, then 15 and 7. ICE agents coerced Yesica into agreeing to deportation, while her mother and brothers were sent to Chicago to enter the asylum process.
  • When Yesica was deported to El Salvador in 2015, she was immediately at risk. Without the protection of her family, she went into hiding. She was pursued and threatened by gang members, which included sexual assault and violence at the hands of her uncle.
  • After a year of trying to hide and knowing that she could soon be killed, Yesica decided to flee on her own.
  • Seeking to be reunited with her family, Yesica made her way through more torment, imprisonment, and terror on the long journey through Mexico.
  • Yesica was again detained at the border and incarcerated in Texas. She lost an immediate motion for asylum and to be reunited with her family already in the asylum process in Chicago. She was ordered deported.
  • When she was finally able to contact her mother, the community in Evanston rallied to find legal and legislative help to appeal her lost asylum case. She had not realized that she had the right to appeal and the judge had never issued her a written finding.
  • Eventually the case was heard and she was again ordered deported solely based on the fact that it was her second entry.  The judge denied that he had the ability to use discretion in her case. Her lawyer won her a stay of removal until that case could be properly reviewed by allowing her a hearing on the merits of the case. Despite arguments that her death was virtually certain if she was returned to El Salvador, the case was denied with no consideration given to the specific merits made by her lawyer because she crossed the border twice, legally deemed a felony.  
  • In addition to the court case, multiple appeals have been submitted to ICE, including a request for a change of detention location and court venue to Chicago so she could be in proximity to her family.
  • A legislator from her family’s district, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, repeatedly petitioned ICE in Houston to allow the change of venue but was categorically denied, again on the basis of the felony for crossing the border twice— not based on the merits of the case, including documented terrorization and severe threat to her life by the gang known world-wide for its extreme violence as well as the presence of a supportive family and community in Chicago.
  • Most recently, Matt Nickson, a Houston-area attorney, committed to submitting an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. He has worked hard on her case for months pro bono. Despite this, mistakes in the Immigration Judge’s argument, and Yesica’s solid asylum case, the BIA denied the appeal, setting in motion Yesica’s imminent deportation.
  • Matt Nickson has submitted an appeal to the BIA’s decision and Petition for Review to the 5th Court. The Petition for Review will take about a year to litigate.  To prevent Yesica’s deportation before this litigation, Mr. Nickson filed Stays to both ICE and the 5th Circuit Court. The 5th Circuit Court denied the Stay.
  • In addition to the dedicated work of Mr. Nickson, in recent weeks, National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) lawyers have provided vital legal advice, especially to the legislators who have written, called, and met with ICE officials to try to win Yesica’s release.  Rep. Jan Schakowsky has taken the lead; Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth as well as Representative Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley from Illinois and Rep. Lee from Texas are also in communication with ICE on behalf of Yesica.
  • Yesica is not a public safety or national security threat. She is a kind, intelligent young woman who wants to be a productive member of American society and to work to support her family. She has a strong welcoming community in Evanston poised to offer her many possibilities to restart a life free from fear. The dire alternative for Yesica is returning to a country ravaged by violence, where she will be tortured and killed.
  • Yesica has no criminal history and has been detained for over 400 days. She is a sexual assault and torture survivor who is severely depressed and needs medical treatment right away.  
  • Yesica’s family is supported by the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants or ICDI (provides living expenses including medical and social services) and the faith community of Lake Street Church (provides housing and community support) in Evanston, Illinois.
  • Her family members are active members of St. Nicholas Catholic parish, also in Evanston. Juana, Yesica’s mother, takes English classes and has recently been allowed to apply for a work permit. She checks in with immigration officers weekly. Every member of this loving family has been deeply traumatized, and the separation and worry about their beloved daughter makes it impossible for them to heal.
  • Over 100 calls have been made to the Houston ICE Office and over 1,600 petition signatures have been submitted to ICE demanding a stop to her deportation. 


Media stories on Yesica: Private prisons boom in Texas and across America under Trump’s immigration crackdown

Legislators, advocates rally to support Salvadoran family split apart at U.S.-Mexico border



Dr. Shanti Elliott is an educator who has worked on immigration justice issues all her life. She is a Board Member of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Steering Committee member of Chicago Women Take Action, and member of the Peace and Justice Committee at Lake Street Church of Evanston.

Contact: shanti.k.elliott@gmail.com/(847) 208-8708

Matthew Paul Nickson is Yesica’s pro bono attorney and Project Manager and General Counsel at Nickson Industrial Warehouses, Inc.

Contact: mpnickson@gmail.com/(713) 204-3247

Cinthya Rodriguez is the Immigration Organizer for the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN). CRLN is an interfaith network of in the state of Illinois whose mission is to promote peace, social justice, and human rights in our hemisphere.

Contact: carodriguez2194@gmail.com/(773) 964-6252/ @CRLN_LA

Hope Sanford is a nurse and member of Migrant Rights Collective in Houston. She frequently visits, corresponds with, and advocates for Yesica and other immigrants detained in Texas prisons.

Contact: hopesnopes@gmail.com/(281) 714-1454



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