Refugees Under Duress: International Law and the Serious Nonpolitical Crime Bar

9 Belmont Law Review 2 (2022)

26 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2022

See all articles by David Baluarte

David Baluarte

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Date Written: 2022


Kevin Euceda was forcibly recruited by the MS-13 gang when he was just thirteen years old. Kevin was destitute after being abandoned by his parents in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and the gang commandeered his house as a base of operations and compelled his participation in gang activities. Over the years, Kevin was forced into minor roles in the gang’s criminal enterprise, and on a couple of occasions was obligated to engage in violence. These violent acts haunted Kevin and left him severely traumatized. Kevin endured life under the thumb of the violent gang until he was seventeen, when he seized a rare chance to escape. He fled Honduras, traversing dangerous migratory channels through Guatemala and Mexico to arrive in the United States, where he believed he could find protection. His trauma was evident when he arrived in the United States, leading immigration officers to medicate him, require counseling, and place him on suicide watch. Unbeknownst to Kevin at that time, an arduous legal battle awaited him that he would be forced to wage from detention centers throughout the United States because of his perceived dangerousness. While his legal case was strong in many respects, he ended up being unable to endure the cost of the fight, jailed like a criminal in immigration detention for the three years that his lawyers worked to secure protection in the United States. Over this period, a judge’s decision to award him asylum was reversed, and her orders to release Kevin from detention were twice blocked by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). Kevin accepted deportation to Honduras as his only escape from detention while his case continued to languish in a seemingly endless process. He met an untimely death in an accident just months later.

Keywords: Refugees, Human Rights, International Law, Serious nonpolitical Crime Bar

Suggested Citation

Baluarte, David, Refugees Under Duress: International Law and the Serious Nonpolitical Crime Bar (2022). 9 Belmont Law Review 2 (2022), Available at SSRN:

David Baluarte (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University School of Law ( email )

204 W Washington St
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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