Cases & Deals

Jones Day team wins appellate victory in Salvadoran asylum case

Client(s) Client X

A team of Jones Day Washington lawyers scored a significant appellate victory in the Fourth Circuit on a pro bono asylum matter in February 2011. The case involved a family who fled El Salvador because of threats made against them by MS-13—the region’s most dangerous criminal gang—following the murder of the father’s cousin; both the father and his uncle had cooperated with the ensuing police investigation and had agreed to be witnesses in the prosecution of the two gang members who had been apprehended. After the trial, the family sacrificed all that they owned and risked their lives to flee to the United States.

After briefing and an evidentiary hearing, the immigration judge granted the family asylum on the basis of the father’s individual application and the derivative applications of his wife and children. The government appealed, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) reversed, ordering the family removed from the United States. Jones Day lawyers appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

After oral argument, the Fourth Circuit, in a published opinion, reversed the BIA, concluding that the father satisfied the statutory definition of “particular social group” and that he had established a well-founded fear of persecution if he were required to return to El Salvador. Already hailed in the immigration community as a significant victory, the Fourth Circuit’s decision not only helped the Firm’s clients in this case, but is likely to affect other applicants for asylum or other relief who have fled Central and South America out of fear of persecution or retaliation by criminal gangs.