- Getty Images/Joe Raedle
- A migrant who was denied asylum in the United States and deported back to Honduras was soon killed by the gang violence he feared, the Washington Post reported.
- The judge who denied Santos Chirino asylum once wrote in a USA Today op-ed that he faced “gut-wrenching” decisions in the asylum cases he oversees, and that he prayed he hadn’t denied asylum to someone who faced genuine danger.
- After Chirino’s death, the lawyer who represented him sent a letter to the judge, saying his client had been “telling the truth.”
A migrant who sought asylum in the United States, but was denied and deported back to Honduras in 2016, soon met the violent death he had feared, according to the Washington Post.
Santos Chirino was reportedly killed in Honduras in April 2017, less than one year after being deported from the United States.
In a bizarre coincidence, the judge who denied Chirino asylum wrote a USA Today op-ed in December 2016 explaining the gut-wrenching decisions he made every day in court. The piece was published just months after Chirino was deported, and shortly before his death.
Judge Thomas Snow, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that the biggest challenge was determining whether asylum-seekers were telling the truth about the dangers they said they faced in their home countries.
“Sometimes, there is not much to go on other than the person’s own testimony. Yet this is not a decision we want to get wrong,” Snow wrote. “I’ve probably been fooled and granted asylum to some who didn’t deserve it. I hope and pray I have not denied asylum to some who did.”
- Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images
Chirino was ultimately killed on his 38th birthday, according to The Post. Though he rarely left his home in Honduras, fearing for his life, he made an exception to travel with his brother to the city of Nacaome to go to a soccer game.
Neither of the brothers made it home alive that day. Chirino was shot in the throat, his body reportedly found in a red pick-up truck. His brother’s body was found with his head bashed in with a rock, The Post reported.
Chirino’s case was decided in 2016, before President Donald Trump took office, but the Trump administration has been increasingly rolling back asylum protections.
The trend has left immigration advocates concerned that Chirino’s fate will befall many other asylum-seekers – particularly those in the migrant caravan who have been waiting at the US-Mexico border for a chance to apply.
- Getty Images/John Moore
When Chirino’s US immigration lawyer learned of his death, he wrote a letter to Snow, attaching gruesome images of the crime scene.
“Santos was murdered by purported gang members,” Benjamin Osorio wrote in the letter, according to The Post. “Santos was telling the truth.”
Chirino’s children, who remain in the US, are now undergoing their own asylum hearings, overseen by a different judge.
As part of the children’s cases, Osorio has included an affidavit from their father, written before his death.
“I fear for my life on a daily basis,” Chirino wrote, according to The Post, adding that he believed the street gang MS-13 would kill his children if they were sent back to Honduras “because they are part of my family.”
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