Immigration Justice Campaign Success Stories
These inspiring volunteers and their clients represent a few of the Immigration Justice Campaign’s success stories. Thank you to the 11,000+ volunteers who have joined the fight for every immigrant’s fair day in court.
Sharmin* escaped oppression in Bangladesh for his work in opposition to the political party in power, and just before New Year’s, won asylum in the United States after an 18-month long fight. As a rare language speaker, Sharmin faced case delays as the Atlanta Immigration Court struggled to find interpreters to assist him in court. With the help of Mitch Katz, Sarah Reise, and Stephanie Johnson of Ballard Spahr, LLP, Peter Isbister and Meredyth Yoon of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Ilana Greenstein of the Immigration Justice Campaign, Sharmin beat the odds in an Immigration Court that has a 5% asylum grant rate.
*Indicates use of pseudonym
Ricardo* came to the U.S. with his family, seeking protection from harm in Haiti. Jailed soon after entering, the family was quickly separated, with Ricardo, 22, and his 19-year-old brother detained in California, while their parents and little brother were released to stay with a relative in Kansas City, Missouri. After failing an initial screening interview, Ricardo’s 19-year-old brother was deported to Haiti, where, within two weeks of arriving, he was beaten so badly he was in the hospital for a month. Ricardo himself, who passed his screening interview, nevertheless continued to languish in detention for months. Finally, with the help of pro bono attorney Deborah Dyson, interpreter Lana Joseph, and two humanitarian bond funds, Ricardo was released and reunited with his family to continue their fight together for lasting protection.
*Indicates use of pseudonym
Monica Lewis successfully represented her client, Mr. A, in his pursuit of asylum. Mr. A fled Venezuela following attacks by government officials for his affiliation with the Accion Democratica and Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party. Mr. A has been released from the Essex County Correctional Facility after more than five months in detention.
Kirk Mueller and Aditi Kulkarni-Knight of Davis Graham & Stubbs successfully represented their Cameroonian client in her pursuit of asylum. Their client had been persecuted by government security forces in her home country after being falsely accused of spying and working for separatist rebels. She was detained at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility for over four months before her release.
Neil Thomson and Jeremy Miller of White and Williams successfully represented their client, Mr. CD, on his claim for asylum. Mr. CD was a military officer in his home country of Mauritania, but beatings and persecution as a black man in Mauritania forced him to resign. Fearing torture and death for leaving the military, Mr. CD fled to the United States where he was detained in Elizabeth, New Jersey for nearly four months prior to winning his case.
Marie Howick, Alex Weiss, Gerson Espinoza, Ryan T. Ward, and Rachel Skaistis of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP helped their client win release from detention and reunify with his minor child. The father and child had been separated for nearly a year. They fled Central America following death threats and the murder of a family member by gang members. The father and his child will now continue their pursuit of asylum in the United States.
Melissa Victoria Perez, Doug Hendricks, and Claudia Vetesi of Morrison & Foerster; Layne Hilton of Kanner & Whiteley; Taylor Levy of Annunciation House; Hector Ruiz of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project; and solo practitioners Amy Maldonado and Eduardo Beckett helped their client, Yeimi, win release from detention, and reunify with her two daughters, ages 3 and 5. Yeimi and her daughters were separated for four months after being apprehended in October 2018. They fled to the United States seeking protection from severe domestic violence and death threats in their native Honduras.
Tabitha Bartholomew and Carolyn Jackson of Hughes Hubbard—as well as our partners Rachel Naggar and Ann Garcia of CLINIC and Bill Schwartz of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project —helped their client Luisa* win release from detention and reunify with her six-year-old son – after being separated for eight months.
Fanni Koszeg successfully represented her client, Ms. C, on her claim for asylum. Ms. C is a young woman from Uganda who was targeted for her affiliation with a group that supported an alternative presidential candidate to the country's longtime ruler. When Ms. C reported the threats, police asked for protection payments she could not afford and refused to help her. In January 2018, Ms. C’s grandmother was killed by armed men claiming to work for the government in search of Ms. C. Ms. C. was devastated and frightened by her grandmother's death and left Uganda in April after additional menacing callers told her she would soon be kidnapped and killed.
Anna Menkova, Joe Halloran, and Gregory Asciolla successfully represented their client, Mr. N, on his claim for asylum. Mr. N was persecuted in Uganda by police, family members, and his community for his sexual orientation. In his youth, Mr. N was severely beaten for being gay by fellow students, teachers, and community members at the school he attended. On another occasion, because he was identified as gay, four of his fingertips were hacked off with a machete by members of his village, and he was sexually abused by police. Mr. N narrowly escaped Uganda shortly after another attack by villagers in which his boyfriend and older brother were killed.
Wendy Tsang and John Esmay successfully represented their client, Mr. A, on his claim for asylum. Mr. A escaped religious persecution in Pakistan following death threats, blackmail, and attacks due to his Shia religion. When Mr. A moved to Saudi Arabia, the threats followed him. Mr. A’s father was killed by Sunni Muslims for his Shia faith, and Mr. A fled to the United States to avoid the same fate.
Abel Albarran successfully represented his client, Mr. P, in his claim for withholding of removal. Mr. P was threatened with death by the ruling communist Sandinista party in Nicaragua due to his support of and campaigning for the opposing Liberal Party. Mr. P resolved that he could not safely relocate within Nicaragua, though he tried multiple times in order to stay near to his ill mother. Mr. P in turn sought relief in the United States.
Benjamin Gianforti, Kamilka Malwatte, Katerina Gross, and Natalie Sykes of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP helped their client, Mr. M-R, win release from detention – and reunify with his daughter – after more than 7 months of incarceration. Mr. M-R and his daughter fled their indigenous farming community in Guatemala after being persecuted on racial, ethnic, and religious grounds and receiving no assistance or protection from governmental authorities. Mr. M-R and his daughter were separated after crossing the border into the United States and sent to separate detention facilities. Following an interview that had significant substantive and procedural deficiencies, Mr. M-R initially received a negative credible fear determination. The Freshfields team took on his case following this negative decision, pursuing both a request for reconsideration and review by an immigration judge in El Paso, one of the toughest immigration courts in the country. Against the odds, the immigration judge reversed and vacated the negative credible fear determination. The Freshfields team then applied for Mr. M-R’s release on bond. After a vigorous oral argument with DHS in a hearing the week before Christmas, the immigration judge granted bond. After the bond was posted, Mr. M-R was released and reunified with his daughter and other family members in Arizona for the holidays. Mr. M-R and his legal team will continue to pursue his asylum claim in 2019.
Christine Fox, James Ostaszewski, and Phil Leggio from the law firm of Labaton Sucharow helped “Bernardino” win release from detention – and reunify with his 12-year-old daughter. Bernardino and his daughter fled violence and persecution in Central America, but were separated at the border in March under the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, despite asking for asylum at a designated port of entry, with valid country passports and proof of parentage. Bernardino was sent to an adult immigration detention center in one state, while his daughter was sent to a facility for minors in a neighboring state. After four months apart, he and his determined volunteer legal team won his release from detention. Two days later, Bernardino was finally reunited with his daughter. Volunteers Fox, Ostaszewski, and Leggio will continue to handle Bernardino’s asylum case, and Bernardino’s daughter has enrolled in middle school.
Dennis Windscheffel, Kate Powers, Justin Wood, Alyssa Pehmoeller, Brette Peña, Natasha Burnett, Zach Bruchmiller, Menachem Danishefsky and Lauren Connell of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, along with Jennifer Rappoport and Whitney Mack of SunPower, aided in the reunification of two families. Mr. C.Z. and his son had been separated since their arrival in the United States nearly four months prior. They fled forcible death threats from a violent loan shark in Guatemala. The team also aided in the reunification of Mr. H.G. and his son, who fled forcible gang recruitment and death threats in Honduras. Mr. H.G. reports having been coerced by immigration officials to sign papers he did not understand. The father and son were reunited after nearly three months apart. Because of the work of these Justice Campaign volunteers, these families will be able to continue their asylum claims in the United States together, outside of detention.
Benjamin Heidlage and Margot Hoppin, attorneys at litigation boutique Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, recently completed a successful emergency representation of their client, Mr. C, who faced threats of violence, imprisonment, and death in Central America. He and his 10-year-old son fled to the United States, where they requested asylum, and were separated and detained. Before retaining pro bono counsel, Mr. C received a negative credible fear finding, which was affirmed by an Immigration Judge, and was therefore ineligible to apply for asylum and subject to immediate deportation. Ben and Margot successfully applied to USCIS for reconsideration of the negative credible fear finding and represented Mr. C at his re-interview. USCIS then changed its screening determination, finding that Mr. C has a credible fear of persecution or torture. Mr. C and his son have been reunited and released from detention, and will continue their pursuit of asylum in the United States.
Ingrid Johnson of the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath, successfully represented her client, Mr. M, on his claim for asylum. Mr. M fled Angola following torture and death threats by the country’s secret police force. He was detained upon his arrival in the United States, and held at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey. He has since been released from detention.
Karen Baldwin won asylum on behalf of Mr. Y and Mr. R, both of whom fled torture and beatings in Azerbaijan due to their involvement in the Talysh National Movement. In Azerbaijan, the Talysh are subjected to forced cultural alignment by the Azerbaijani, Iranian, and Turkish Governments.
Shoba Jaglal and Harry Shulman obtained cancellation of removal for their clients who had been green card holders for decades. They had been picked up in New Jersey as part of the Trump administration’s enforcement surge against immigrants with minor or no criminal history. 44% of ICE arrestees in NJ in the first half of 2017 had no criminal backgrounds; and in 2017, arrests of those without known criminal convictions nationwide soared 146% since 2016. This was Jaglal’s first removal defense case and Shulman’s first cancellation case.
With the help of Lindsay Maione, Jenifer Scarcella, and Zaara Nazir of White & Williams, a Cameroonian man was granted asylum after fleeing persecution in his home country.
Mary Rothwell Davis and Mary McGowan Davis sought and obtained asylum on behalf of their client who fled persecution on account of his political opinion in his home country, Congo-Brazzaville.
Henry and Helen Freedman successfully represented Mr. K on his asylum claim. Mr. K fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo following many months of incarceration and daily torture by prison guards because of his political activity. After escaping prison, Mr. K arrived in Brazil hidden in the bottom of a cargo ship. From there, he traveled to the United States by land. Counsel were aided by a volunteer doctor from the Mount Sinai Human Rights program who examined Mr. K and testified about the evidence of torture.
Adriana Copolla successfully represented Mr. PC on his asylum claim. Mr. PC’S father was killed due to his family’s political affiliation, and Mr. PC suffered beatings and torture by government officials before fleeing to the United States.
Eric Porter of White and Williams LLP successfully represented his client, Mr. A, on his asylum claim. Mr. A fled Nigeria following beatings and torture due to his religious affiliation and refusal to ascend the throne in his local village.
Christopher Beshara of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP successfully represented his client, Mr. S, on his asylum claim. Mr. S had written articles criticizing the Taliban and soon after, endured beatings by armed men who attacked him and threatened his life. Mr. S fled subsequently fled Pakistan.
Liz Jordan successfully represented a man with a severe skin disease in his pursuit of release from detention on bond. The client fled his home country due to life-threatening conditions. In addition, Liz successfully represented a client with severe abdominal pain in his pursuit of release from detention.
Violeta Chapin, Katherine Vera, and Emily Anderson successfully assisted in their client’s release from detention after fleeing violence in Mexico. Their client’s wife is a U.S. citizen and suffers from severe health issues.
Carlos* is a Central American man who fled his country of origin after severe persecution for his sexual orientation. Carlos suffers from diabetes and hypertension, which make him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. With the help of his volunteer attorney, Hugh Hudson, Carlos was granted long-term safety in the United States. Congratulations to Carlos and Hugh!
*Indicates use of pseudonym
Yeimi and her two daughters (pictured) were separated for four months after being apprehended in October 2018.
Volunteers Christine Fox, James Ostaszewski, and Phil Leggio fought for the release and reunification of their clients (pictured), a father and daughter who fled violence in Central America and were separated at the border and detained in March 2018.
The American Immigration Council warns non-citizens to guard against spoofing phone calls from ill-intended individuals seeking to create panic among our immigrant community. To learn more, please go to scam.immigrationcouncil.org.