success story: Natalia and Daniel

Natalia and Daniel grew up in Venezuela. Like many people in their country, they watched in horror as Hugo Chavez and then Nicolas Maduro took step after step to turn the country into a dictatorship. Natalia’s family had always been politically active, and she worked to oppose the Chavez/Maduro regime. Natalia protested in opposition demonstrations and volunteered for an opposition party, encouraging others to vote and monitoring polling places. Pro-regime forces noticed and were not pleased. Natalia was met with intimidation at first, but she persisted. She and other volunteers were once forced into a room and held by pro-regime forces who ultimately “only” robbed and threatened the volunteers.

Things got worse. Natalia and Daniel received a death threat in their mailbox, specifically addressed to Natalia. Then things got even worse. Natalia was going from an opposition demonstration to her office when she was intercepted by pro-regime thugs. These were the notorious ‘colectivos,’ armed gangs that dispense vigilante “justice” for the Chavez/Maduro regime. At gunpoint, they forced Natalia into their car and drove her away. The colectivos forced Natalia to cover her head and eventually took her to an unknown building. Natalia was interrogated and psychologically tortured for some time by the colectivos: they physically assaulted her, held a gun to her head, grabbed her breast, and threatened to rape and kill her and to kill her husband and family. In the end, the colectivos let Natalia go. Understandably traumatized, Natalia found help from a kind stranger and eventually made it home to her husband, Daniel.

Daniel encouraged Natalia to report the abduction, assault, and threats to the police. The two went to Venezuela’s CICPC (like the US’s FBI) to report the crime. The police were not at all interested in helping, but they went through the motions. They asked Natalia to sit in a room to speak with a police officer. That’s when Natalia noticed. She was in the same room where the colectivos had held her. She knew it was the same room because the floor tiles were identical, one was cracked in specific way, and there was a cigarette butt in the crack. She had no doubt, and she froze up. Natalia was able to convince Daniel to go right then.

Natalia and Daniel decided to leave Venezuela. They applied to schools in the US, and obtained student visas to come to an English school in Chicago. They approached Keith Southam as his prior law office to file the asylum application. It was a lot of work to put the story together with evidence to back up the story. The wait for an interview and then the wait for a decision were both long. But finally, US immigration officials granted asylum to Natalia and Daniel. They are safe in the United States now, and no longer need fear the Venezuelan regime!

(Names changed for privacy purposes.)

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