Cases & Deals

Honduran family granted asylum based on religious persecution

Clients M.L., S.V., and J.L.

In the U.S. Immigration Court for Baltimore, Maryland, Johanes Maliza, Cristina Perez-Soto, and Andrew Turnier recently obtained asylum for our clients M.L., S.V., and J.L. The clients are a Honduran family who had been persecuted on account of work for the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jones Day took on the clients in the summer of 2014, during the unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing violence in Central America.

In Honduras, the family was trying to found a Seventh Day Adventist church in their neighborhood. Just four months after starting, however, two gang members attacked them at a prayer meeting. The husband jumped on the gun, and was shot four times. The wife dove on their three year old son, and took a bullet which would have hit the boy. The family recovered from their wounds in hiding, then fled to the U.S.

The Immigration Judge began the asylum hearing by announcing he had “not even touched” the brief or three inches of evidence submitted on behalf of our clients. Then, without allowing an opening statement or direct testimony, he put our clients under examination.

Despite pointed questions from the judge, both clients performed brilliantly. They were prepared to answer every question that was asked, and they stayed calm in the face of the interrogation. They testified over two hours, combined, and movingly articulated why they deserved asylum.

The expert, Dr. Harry Vanden, testified another 30 minutes, again being interrogated by the judge before getting direct testimony. On direct he noted that, if the clients returned to Honduras and resumed their religious work, they could expect to be in danger from gangs and drug cartels in any area of the country.

After a three hour hearing, Mr. Maliza gave a closing statement, followed by DHS. The judge delivered his opinion orally, and found that the witnesses had testified credibly, and met their burdens of persuasion on each element of asylum. The government waived appeal, and the grant of asylum is thus final. The clients, who had twin daughters during the 18 months awaiting their day in court, are overjoyed and anxious to start their new life in the United States.

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