Subject: CLINIC BIA Pro Bono Project Recent Victories Friends,
BIA and federal circuit court appeals often feel like an uphill battle, a true David and Goliath fight. It can be particularly discouraging right now, during an isolating pandemic, when DHS and DOJ issue new regulations and the BIA and AG publish opinions almost weekly with the purpose of making it more difficult for noncitizens to win their cases.
However, CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Project continues to fight back and perform miracles—defeating Goliath—thanks to BIA Pro Bono Project Manager Rachel Naggar, BIA Pro Bono Project Legal Specialist Brenda Hernandez, and our many dedicated attorney volunteers.
Rachel and Brenda shared with me the project’s awe-inspiring stories of success from this summer and the volunteers who made these victories possible. In turn, I share these success stories with you to offer inspiration to keep fighting for your clients while the Trump administration escalates its attacks on immigrant communities.
- The BIA remanded the case of a Haitian asylum seeker on numerous grounds, including that the IJ did not apply the proper framework for assessing firm resettlement, the IJ mixed up the respondent’s political party when assessing his claim for withholding of removal, and the IJ did not meaningfully consider the respondent’s risk of future persecution. Thank you to Michael Ward of Alston&Bird!
- The BIA overturned the IJ’s adverse credibility finding against an asylum seeker from Burkina Faso. The BIA also found that the IJ erred in concluding there was no nexus between the harm the respondent suffered and his political opinion, including that the prosecution he endured was actually pretext for persecution. Thank you to Gregory Proctor, Marjorie Sheldon, and Christian Roccotagliata of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel!
- The BIA granted asylum to a Cuban refugee. Contrary to the IJ, the BIA found that the harm suffered by the respondent did cumulatively rise to the level of past persecution and he did have a well-founded fear of persecution. Thank you to Austin Manes and Aaron Frankel of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel!
- The BIA remanded the case of a Cuban asylum seeker because the IJ failed to consider the evidence of past economic persecution along with the physical harm suffered. The BIA also reminded the IJ that where the persecution is committed by the government, it is presumed that internal relocation is not reasonable, and the burden shifts to DHS to demonstrate that it would be reasonable in this case. Thank you to Dean Galaro of Perkins Coie!
- The BIA reopened the case of a Cuban asylum seeker because he had new evidence of harm and threats against his family that occurred after his final hearing with the immigration judge. Thank you to Astrid Ackerman and Aaron Webman of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel!
- The Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review of a Ghanaian asylum seeker, overturning the IJ’s negative credibility finding and concluding that the Board had failed to adequately consider the country conditions evidence when it denied CAT relief. You can read the full decision here. Thank you to Kari Hong of Boston College Law School!
- The Third Circuit, in a published decision, granted a Honduran asylum seeker’s petition for review, finding that the IJ and BIA erred in analyzing whether the respondent had suffered past persecution. The Court also found that the IJ failed to conduct the proper analysis regarding the need for evidence in an application for CAT protection. You can read the full decision here. Thank you to Aaron Rabinowitz and Gary Levin of Baker & Hostetler!
- The Sixth Circuit, in a published decision, granted a Russian asylum seeker’s petition for review, finding that the IJ and BIA erred in concluding that the respondent was not persecuted on account of his political opinions and that his indictment for peacefully protesting under Russian law was a pretext for persecution. You can read the full decision here. Thank you to Brenna Duncan and Andrew Caridas of Perkins Coie!
- DHS withdrew its appeal of a grant of asylum from Mexico to a Cuban national. DHS conceded to the IJ that the respondent was eligible for asylum from Mexico, but not Cuba because of the Third Country Transit Bar. DHS changed its mind and filed an appeal, which was withdrawn after pro bono counsel filed his brief. Thank you to James Montana of The Law Office of James Montana!
- The BIA dismissed an appeal by the Department of Homeland Security and upheld a Cuban woman’s grant of asylum. The Board found that the IJ was correct in deeming the respondent eligible for asylum and not subject to the Third Country Transit Bar. Thank you to Aaron Rabinowitz and Jeffrey Lyons of Baker & Hostetler!
- ICE released a Venezuelan asylum seeker from detention to reunite with her spouse, after tremendous advocacy efforts by her pro bono attorney. Thank you to David Gottlieb!
- The Ninth Circuit remanded the case of a Honduran victim of domestic violence, at the request of the Department of Justice. The Court ordered the BIA to reconsider whether the respondent had demonstrated that the Honduran government acquiesced in her persecution, whether the respondent is part of a viable particular social group, whether it would have been futile for her to report the harm to local authorities, and whether internal relocation would be reasonable. Thank you to Alicia Chen!
- A victim of human rights violations by the notorious Eritrean military was granted withholding of removal, after the BIA overturned the IJ’s adverse credibility finding and found that the IJ failed to consider that the country conditions evidence corroborated the respondent’s claim. Thank you to Jonaki Singh and Susan Jacquemot of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel!
- The Ninth Circuit remanded the case of an asylum seeker from Mexico, at the request of the Department of Justice. The Court ordered the BIA to reconsider whether the respondent had been persecuted and sexually assaulted on account of her sexual orientation, and whether the government of Mexico could adequately protect her from future harm. Thank you to Tim Patton of the Appellate Immigration Project!
- The Fourth Circuit granted the petition for review holding that a conviction under VA 18.2-280(A) is not a removable firearms offense, a result that would not have been possible had Mr. Gordon not continued to fight his case for so many years even despite being deported. You can read the decision here. Thank you to the CAIR Coalition and Ted Howard at Wiley Rein! Thank you also to the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild for the amicus support!
Jose came to the United States in 1985 to live with his father as a permanent resident. He built a life in the United States, becoming a father himself. After a run in with the law, he was placed in removal proceedings and was detained for 19 months.In a 2-1 decision, the Third Circuit found that under the unique circumstances of this case, Jose’s father was deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Jose is a United States citizen, the court declared, and has been since 1985.In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, Jose’s case was the first to benefit from this Supreme Court decision. You can read the full decision here. The government petitioned for rehearing, but the full Third Circuit declined to intervene.
Ultimately, the government declined to ask the Supreme Court to review the case. For the better part of the last decade, Jose’s life has been filled with uncertainty and stress, but not anymore, which is very important as Jose is expecting his first grandchild. A huge thank you to Nick Curcio who has represented Jose for 7 years!
In its 19+ years of operation, the Project has reviewed more than 7,200 cases, pairing attorneys and law school clinics with vulnerable asylum seekers and long-time lawful permanent residents. If you are interested in representing a case through CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Project, please complete our volunteer form. If you prefer to show your support for the BIA Pro Bono Project via a monetary donation, please designate “BIA Pro Bono Project” in the “In honor of” field of our donations page.
Gratefully and in solidarity,
Michelle N. Mendez (she/her/ella/elle)
Director, Defending Vulnerable Populations Program
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
Thanks Michelle, my friend, colleague, and courageous leader of the NDPA. What a timely, wonderful, practical, “real life” illustration of Jason “The Asylumist” Dzubow’s “praise and call to action for pro bono” that I republished earlier this week! https://immigrationcourtside.com/2020/08/11/lifesaving-101-for-the-ndpa-begins-with-pro-bono-never-has-the-need-been-greater-pro-bonos-finest-hour-in-americas-time-of-darkness-cruelty-inhumanity/
Here’s what our colleague Judge Jeffrey Chase has to say about Michelle and CLINIC:
No surprise, Michelle. CLINIC is responsible for so much good case law. And the non-CLINIC successful attorneys probably used CLINIC training or practice advisories. Congrats to you and all of your outstanding attorneys and support staff, and thanks for all you do!
Even in times of our greatest national darkness and misery, there are plenty of lives that can be saved! Contrary to the “Dred Scottification” — dehumanization of persons in our country — unconscionably pushed by the regime and enabled by many public officials and courts that “should know better,” every person’s life is important!
And, despite the conscious misinterpretation and misapplication of the Fifth Amendment by far too many of those charged with upholding it, every person in the U.S., regardless of race or status, is entitled to due process, fundamental fairness, and to be treated with human dignity.
Think of how much progress we could make if we didn’t have to keep re-litigating all the same issues over and over again, often with differing results!
What if the “precedents” concentrated on those cases that could be granted, rather than almost exclusively focusing on “roadmaps to denial?”
What if we promoted and supported great pro bono representation, rather than inhibiting and discouraging it?
What if meritorious cases were moved to the “head of the line” instead of continuously being “shuffled off to Buffalo” by “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) thereby languishing in the mindlessly expanding backlog?
What if Federal Judges at all levels were the “best and the brightest” — selected from among those with demonstrated expertise in immigration, asylum and human rights and impeccable reputations for due process, fundamental fairness, and humanity, rather than being selected for “go along to get along” reputations or allegiance to perverse political ideologies that undermine equal justice for all?
What if our Immigration Court system were administered independently and professionally, rather than as a biased and weaponized tool of DHS enforcement and White Nationalist politicos?
What if our Justice System worked cooperatively with folks like Michelle, Jason, Judge Ashley Tabaddor, and many others with good, creative, practical ideas for institutionalizing “best practices” leading to to “due process with efficiency?”
What if we fairly implemented our refugee, asylum, and protection legal framework to “protect rather than reject?”
What if we consistently treated our fellow beings as humans, rather than as “less than human?”
What if we viewed immigration for what it really is: the foundation of our nation and a continuing source of great strength, pride, and optimism for our country of immigrants, rather than pretending that we live on an island and must “wall off” the rest of the world?
This November, vote like your life and the future of our nation depend on it! Because they do!
Defending Vulnerable Populations Director
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.