Maria Teresa Tula viuda de Canales, a Salvadoran woman, is seeking political asylum in the United States. In El Salvador she worked with Comadres, the “Committee of Mothers,” an organization of women formed to advocate for “disappeared,” arrested and otherwise persecuted family members. She became active in Comadres as a result of the imprisonment, torture and eventual assassination of her husband .
In 1984, Comadres was chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Award for its working human rights, and Tula was selected to come to Washington, D.C. to accept it. The State Department denied her a visa, claiming that she had communist connections. In El Salvador, over the next two years, Tula was arrested, raped, tortured, and beaten. When she got out of jail, she and her two young children came to the U.S. and sought political asylum. After her arrival, Comadres was increasingly attacked by the El Salvadoran government. In the summer of 1987, a bomb exploded in its offices, killing one of its members; and another bomb exploded there in October 1989, injuring several Comadres members.
In May 1988, the INS District Director denied Tula’s application for political asylum, making unsupported accusations that Comadres collaborated in “terrorist acts” of the FMLN.
While awaiting the issuance of an order to show cause, allowing Tula to move her asylum application forward, two protections became available to Salvadorans. Due to pressure from immigrants’ rights advocates, the government granted Salvadorans “temporary protected status” (TPS), thereby implicitly recognizing the civil war in El Salvador. Although TPS expired on June 30, 1992, all Salvadorans were granted deferred enforced departure (DED) which essentially extends TPS until June 30, 1993. Additionally, due to the momentous settlement in American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, Tula is entitled to have her denial of asylum reevaluated. However, the backlog of re adjudications makes it impossible to determine when her application will be heard. CCR will represent Tula throughout this process.
Sara E. Rios, Michael Ratner, Claudia Slovinsky, and Judy Rabinovitz, with Diane George