Cases & Deals

El Salvadorian family wins asylum

Client(s) El Salvadoran applicant for asylum

On July 20, 2007, a team of lawyers from Jones Day's Washington office secured asylum for a family of four from El Salvador. The father of the family, and his uncle, had witnessed members of the MS-13 gang brutally murder another family member. After cooperating with police in El Salvador in connection with the murder investigation, the family received repeated death threats from MS-13. In one incident, MS-13 placed a gun to the uncle's head and attempted to pull the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned. As a result of the threats, the family, including two young children, embarked on a grueling two-month journey to the U.S. border in late 2004. After arriving in the U.S., the family failed to file for asylum prior to the one-year filing deadline. Thus, in addition to proving the merits of their asylum claim, the family had to prove that "exceptional circumstances" excused their late filing.

Jones Day submitted preliminary briefing to the Immigration Court, which included substantial documentation that Jones Day was able to acquire to corroborate key facts in the family's story. Moreover, Jones Day located and employed an expert on the country conditions of El Salvador and gang violence in Latin America. At the asylum hearing, Louis Gabel, a Washington Office associate, examined the parents of the family and responded to the immigration judge's extensive questioning concerning the legal underpinnings of the family's application. After a full-day hearing, the judge commended Jones Day for its pro bono efforts in the case. On July 20, 2007, the judge issued a 12-page opinion granting the family's application for asylum. Brittney Nystrom of the CAIR Coalition, the non-profit organization that referred the case to Jones Day, stated, "This is a tremendous victory given the procedural and substantive obstacles in the case."

Jones Day Washington associate Louis Gabel handled the briefing and hearing, and was assisted by Washington associate Sean Malone and 2007 summer associate Jennifer Carpenter. Adriana Espinosa, an administrative assistant in the Washington office, provided translation assistance. Washington partner Jim Gauch oversaw the case team.