“God bless you. Firstly, I thank you for your visits and for all the help that you are giving. It is not easy to be in this situation to be here in the detention center, deprived of liberty that we all have the right to as human beings, without exception of race, political opinion, religion, or nationality.
I thank you with all of my heart for all of the help that your are giving me and may you would be richly blessed for this huge and necessary support that you offer to those people that do not have economic resources. God bless you and protect you.”
Angolan Client Wins Asylum after Surviving Religious Persecution
The Migrant Center won asylum for a young man from Angola who fled the government after he sought to attend the trial of his religious leader and was attacked and beaten by the police for his religious association. With your support the Migrant Center helped him prepare his asylum application and written testimony, researched and compiled relevant human rights evidence, and represented him at his individual merits hearing. Below he writes words of thanks to the team of volunteers, donors, and staff that helped him throughout the court process:
United States, April 2020
Greetings to all the people in the organization, to you I write:
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
I hope you are all well, I am Joao from Angola, Africa. I am 26 years old. I left my country due to persecution by my government, I have been in detention for six months and 18 days having left on 20 March 2020 thanks to you.
Yes God’s grace, who by [His] mercy put you from the United States in my life path, because of that I come here by to thank all of you who were involved in contributing directly or indirectly to my asylum case.
You, yes thanks be to you, today I am free with the asylum case already won, because you did not measure belief, nor race, nor origin, nor anything else: but your goodness. You did not measure any of those things and you came to my rescue.
Thanks to you, yes to you, I have no words to thank you for this great feat. May God bless all of you. Thank you very much for everything. You are special in my life. For you have changed the history of my life thank you very much and I hope that as you helped me, may you also do, if possible, with more people. Because I was without hope but you gave me hope in my life.
You have changed my history, a new history has begun, thanks be to all of you for your goodness; you are enlightened beings.
May God bless you.
My farewell to you all:
Joao was subject to Trump’s Asylum Ban, having crossed the Del Rio Port of Entry bridge into the U.S. on September 2, 2019. The Migrant Center successfully argued that he should be exempted from the ban because he put his name on the U.S. government’s waitlist on May 17, 2019, a month before the rule’s effective date of July 16, 2019, and therefore is eligible for asylum, as affirmed by the Ninth Circuit on March 5 in Al Otro Lado v. Wolf. Read about how the Asylum Ban has affected asylum seekers in our Special Report and learn more in our Practice Advisory. Hear directly from Joao about what his experience was like waiting months to cross the border in Acuna, Mexico.
Refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo Wins Asylum
Read hereabout how this month the Migrant Center also helped a political refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo win asylum as our country began to go into lockdown as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
Congolese Refugee Wins Asylum with Migrant Center’s Help
A judge granted asylum to a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo finding that he would face persecution if he were deported. DHS waived appeal and he has now been released from detention. The Migrant Center researched and provided him with several hundred pages of human rights reports corroborating his case and also gave him a court testimony tip sheet to help him prepare for trial. He told us shortly after winning his case: “Thank you so much. The information you gave really helped me. I studied it, and it had a lot of good information.” Thank you to our generous donors for helping make this possible.
Cameroonian Asylum Seeker Granted Protection with Assistance from the Migrant Center
Mr. N.T., a high school teacher from the Southwest region, after falling victim to the Cameroonian government’s crackdown on Anglophone teachers and activists who have been calling for more independence from the central government, was arrested without charge, beaten, and held in inhumane conditions for many months. He escaped and came to the U.S. for protection. The Migrant Center assisted him in completing his asylum application, writing his testimony for court, gathering human rights evidence, compiling personal evidence, and informing him of his trial rights, the legal process, and the applicable laws in the U.S. The Immigration Judge granted him withholding of removal finding that there is a greater than 50% chance that he will be persecuted if he is returned to Cameroon. His application for asylum was denied because he entered the United States after July 15, 2019, even though he tried to enter previously and was turned back due to the U.S. “wait in line” metering policy. He is currently seeking to appeal this decision.
Nicaraguan Political Activist Receives Withholding of Removal after the Migrant Center Spends a Year Fighting for Him
Mr. H.R. received withholding of removal after initially losing his case in January 2019 due to ineffective assistance of counsel, appealing to the Board of Immigration Appeals with the Migrant Center’s help, and, after winning his appeal in June 2019, relitigating his case with the Migrant Center’s assistance in completing his asylum application, writing a detailed declaration in English, and researching and compiling human rights and personal evidence (he was denied asylum due to having a previous, unrelated deportation order, read our analysisof why this regulation is harmful unlawful). After close to two years in detention he is now free and living with family in Florida.
Migrant Center Helps Cuban Refugee Reverse Negative USCIS Interview
The Migrant Center won a Request for Reconsideration with USCIS for a Cuban asylum seeker who was brutally beaten by the Cuban police for failing to vote and attend meetings in support of the Castro government. He has now been issued a Notice to Appear and will be allowed to present his claim for protection to a U.S. immigration judge.Read more about the fear interview process here.
Qualitative data gathered by the Migrant Center and private attorneys working in Texas shows that the number of denials at fear interviews – necessary to pass for new arrivals placed in Expedited Removal – has increased since the July 16, 2019 Asylum Ban 2.0 was entered into the Federal Register as a Joint Interim Final Rule. These cases are being considered under the higher, more likely than not withholding of removal standard (over 50% likelihood of persecution) instead of the lower asylum reasonable possibility standard (~10% likelihood of persecution).
According to quantitative data from FY2008 to FY2019, Immigration Judges granted asylum to 14 out of 100 individuals who started the asylum process with a USCIS fear interview (in FY2019 12 out of 100 applicants were granted). For charts showing the grant rates at each step of the adjudication process see: FY2008 to FY2019and FY2019.
Judge Grants Bond to Father of Four
Attorney Sara Ramey and Law Student Camilla Morrison successfully convinced an Immigration Judge to give a Guatemalan father another chance at a bond hearing (the law only allows for one hearing except in exceptional circumstances). At this second hearing the judge agreed to grant a $6000 bond and our client is now back with his children, wife, mother, and brothers in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Cuban Political Dissident Achieves Reversal of Negative Credible Fear Interview with USCIS
Pro bono attorney Tony Ortega successfully wrote a Request for Reconsideration to USCIS for a Cuban detainee whose negative Credible Fear Interview results were affirmed by the Immigration Judge, despite his well-founded fear of political persecution for opposing the communist regime. With the Migrant Center’s help, including the presentation of evidence that his wife’s similar case was approved by an Immigration Judge, USCIS decided to reverse the negative results it had previously issued and give him a chance to fight for protection in the U.S. along side his wife, as well as request release from detention so that he can be reunified with his wife (who was separated from him at the border and held in detention in Aurora Colorado).
Judge Convinced to Give Venezuelan Asylum Seeker a Chance
With the assistance of pro bono attorney Tony Ortega, we were able to help a Venezuelan asylum seeker convince the judge to reverse his negative interview results and give him a chance in court for protection. The Migrant Center team has been traveling to the South Texas Detention Complex and assisting detained immigrants all month, including by helping them prepare to present their cases to an Immigration Judge. Besides merits hearing prep, we also do asylum interview “review” prep. Most asylum seekers must pass a Credible Fear Interview or Reasonable Fear Interview, respectively, before they have the right to present their case to a judge (read here for our analysis of this process). When an asylum seeker does not pass the interview we help them prepare to speak with the judge about why they believe they should still have a chance to receive protection in the U.S. During our preparation for this judicial review we explain the process and their rights, discuss tips for testifying and avoiding interpretation problems, conduct a practice session to familiarize them with court questioning, and review the law with them.
Honduran Mother Gets Case Reopened
The Migrant Center helped Eliza, a mother of four from Honduras, reopen her case with the Immigration Court after the court ordered her deported without proper notice of her hearing date. She will now have a chance to seek protection. The Migrant Center has prepare asylum applications with her and her children, as well as a detailed English declaration about their persecution in Honduras.
Nicaraguan Wins Appeal
The Migrant Center helped Amilcar, a political opponent of the Nicaraguan dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega, win his appeal at the Board of Immigration Appeals. Due to poor preparation issues outside of his control, very little evidence was initially submitted to the Immigration Judge. He now has another opportunity to present his political persecution case to the Immigration Judge.
Congolese Woman Wins Asylum
The Migrant Center helped a woman fleeing political persecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo win asylum. We researched and compiled human rights reports for her on her political party and conducted an in-person practice testimony session. She wrote us a letter thanking us and everyone who has supported our work: “Glory to God I won my asylum case. That God bless you infinitely today, tomorrow and always and protect your colleagues, your work, your family.” This work wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of individuals in the community like you.
Refugees get Appropriately Screened
The Migrant Center helped one Honduran man convince an Immigration Judge to vacate USCIS’ negative Credible Fear Interview determination and in another case the Migrant Center convinced ICE to schedule a Honduran man for a Reasonable Fear Interview after he had been in detention for over six months without being screened, thus giving both men a chance at fighting for protection here in the U.S. They both now have a chance to file asylum applications in Immigration Court.
Three Asylum Wins
The Migrant Center helped three detained refugees receive protection in the U.S. In the first case, we helped a political opponent of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega prepare for testifying at his final court hearing.
In the second case, we assisted a young father from Honduras fleeing police persecution for refusing to participate in their illegal arms trafficking scheme by helping him fill out his asylum application and write a declaration in English, researching and compiling human rights evidence, assisting him with personal documents – including a psychiatrist evaluation and English translations, and helping him prepare for his final court hearing. We would like to thank everyone who gave so generously of their time to help on this case, including Raiya Al-Nsour, Patricia Walthan, Joy Choi, and Daniela Montufar.
In the third case, we helped a Honduran man who had been raped after suffering years of harassment and discrimination for his perceived sexual identity to prepare his asylum application, compile country condition reports, and get ready to testify before the Immigration Judge. He was aided by pro bonopsychiatrist Joy Choi.
Two Imminent Deportations Stopped
Thanks to Kaitlin and the team at Hogan, several hours after the deportation officer called us to say that Josefina would be deported to Honduras the next day, they successfully got a temporary stay from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. When ICE found out about the stay the next morning Josefina was already on a flight back to Honduras. ICE flew her back to the U.S. later the same day.
The day before the Migrant Center succeeded in getting USCIS to change its negative asylum interview decision in Jose’s case and give him a chance at fighting his case before an Immigration Judge.
After a six-month fight to get Syed, a Yemeni asylee, released from detention, he is finely free. Our client was granted asylum in June 2018 but ICE refused to release him while they appealed the decision, even though there were no “exceptional concerns” in the case (the standard ICE is supposed to use to continue detaining someone who has been granted protection in the U.S.). With the help of a team of pro bono lawyers ICE lost their appeal in November 2018. However, ICE still refused to release Syed, stating that they needed to wait until the judge received his updated fingerprints (which ICE had already taken and knew were clear) and reissued the asylum decision. Simultaneously, another asylee client of ours in the exact same situation, but with a different ICE officer, was released. At the end of December 2018 the judge reissued the decision but despite the ICE attorney’s assurances that Syed would then be released, he was still locked up eight days later. We filed an emergency motion and he was finally released the next day.
$1,500 Bond Granted to Dreamer
The Migrant Center helped a Dreamer receive the lowest bond possible from an Immigration Judge after ICE refused to release her due to a pending drug paraphernalia possession arrest. She had let her DACA lapse due to fear-mongering in the community since Trump’s election and lack of economic resources to pay for the process. She is now back with her friends and family.
Pro Bono Win Asylum for Two Refugees at the Board of Immigration Appeals
We are thrilled to report two asylum wins this month. In the first case, Mohamed, a young man from Somalia was granted asylum after spending close to two years in detention with pro bono help of Professor David Gottlieb from Wake Forest and the CLINIC program. The Migrant Center prepared a detailed declaration and evidence packet for Mohamed. The attorney wrote that the Migrant Center’s work was “very helpful in supporting [the] argument on appeal… we cite the I-589 repeatedly, that the country conditions evidence is used to establish the minority status of [his] tribe and the conflict with the [majority tribe], and that Respondent’s declaration concerning his flight was central to our ability to argue that the IJ’s claim that Respondent spent a month in Somalia after his incarceration (and therefore could have safely remained) was not supported in the record.” On remand, DHS tried to deny Mohamed asylum due to his PTSD. The Migrant Center connected the attorney with psychologist Gary Whiting and together they were able to convince the judge that he should be granted asylum. Mohamed is now out of detention after spending 1 1/2 years locked up.
In the second case, Tesfaye, a young man from Eritrea fleeing government torture for expressing his political opinion, pro bono Neil Cohen represented him before the Immigration Judge where he won protection under the Convention Against Torture and continued his case before the BIA where he won asylum, giving him the opportunity to apply for a green card and eventually citizenship.
Four People Granted Release from Detention
We won bonds for two clients: A young man from Honduras fleeing police persecution was granted a $2,500 bond by ICE. In another case, a young woman from Honduras (who wrote about her journey to the U.S. in our last newsletter here) was granted a bond by the Immigration Judge over DHS’ objection because the judge understood that the young woman only presented a fake birth certificate as a result of the smuggler telling her that she needed to pretend to be a minor to get protection.
Separately, we got an Eritrean client released on an Order of Supervision. He had been granted Withholding of Removal by an Immigration Judge but ICE was continuing to detain him in an effort to remove him to Sudan, where he had lived undocumented for many years and had been persecuted for religious reasons. He is now happily living at an immigration shelter.
Lastly, we assisted an asylum seeker successfully pass their credible fear interview, after which ICE granted him a $1,500 bond, the lowest amount possible. He released and home for the holidays.
Congratulations and Thank You to Our Pro Bonos
Pro bono lawyers from DLA Piper successfully defended a Yemeni man who was granted asylum in May but forced to remain in detention another six months while the government sought to take away his asylum. Special thanks to Katie Jahnke, Michael Massiatte, and John Lloyde, as well as the CLINIC team for all their work.
DLA Piper pro bono lawyers won an appeal for a Sudanese Darfur genocide survivor. The government was trying to reverse the Immigration Judge’s decision but, with the help of DLA Piper, the asylee was able to keep his protection. He spent over a year in detention fighting his case and has now been released. Special thanks to Emily Johnson, Laura Sixkiller, and Sarah Stanton, as well as the CLINIC team.
The Migrant Center works on the ground to identify strong cases and connect asylum seekers with the legal representation they need to succeed. We provide on the ground support to the pro bono lawyers we work with as needed.
Separately, we would like to give a shout out to the Cuny Law School Immigration Clinic who accepted the case of a former Bengali client granted asylum by the Immigration Judge but then whose his green card application was delayed by USCIS for over two years without clear reason. They successfully litigating a federal mandamus request and he received his green card approval just before Thanksgiving. Thank you for making this possible!
Luz is Released
Luz was finally released and reunited with her son in New York. Luz underwent months of family separation and medical hardship before she contacted the Migrant Center and we were able to connect her with an independent doctor, community advocates, and a low bono lawyer. We extend our profound thanks to Julia, Kate, Dionne, Ruby and everyone else who helped Luz for all their tireless work on this case. Not only does it take boots on the ground visiting asylum seekers in detention. It truly takes a community.
Protection Granted to Eritrean Man
Mr. M., a persecuted Pentacostal Christian, was granted protection by the Immigration Judge. The Eritrean government only allows for four religions to practices openly so Mr. M and his family participated in an underground, secret church. When the Eritrean government found out about the church they broke into a service and beat and arrested its members. Mr. M, a teenager at the time, was hospitalized. The Migrant Center assisted him in preparing his declaration in English, taking photos of his injuries (permission must be obtained from ICE to bring a camera into the facility), gave him information on gathering evidence, and prepared him for his final hearing.
Guatemalan Teacher Wins Asylum
The Migrant Center won asylum for a Guatemalan teacher and activist who was persecuted for standing up to the corrupt practices of politicians in his community. He will now be able to petition for his wife and three children who, once reunited, will live with him in San Antonio.
Darfuri Genocide Survivor Wins UN Protection
The Migrant Center won protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture for a survivor of the Sudanese government’s genocide against Darfuris, escaping Janjaweed attack on his village that killed his father and separated him from his mother and all of his siblings but one. When his remaining sibling became politically active, our client was detained and tortured by the government for information. DHS is appealing and refusing to release him from detention even though they previous said he could leave on payment of a 7,500 bond [which he does not have].
Father Reunited with Children
A father of two young children and long-term resident of south Texas was release on bond with the help of the Migrant Center. He can now continue his case from outside detention while being with his family.
Father from El Salvador Released and Reunited with Son
We successfully obtained the release of a father and minor son who had been forcibly separated by immigration and held in different facilities, overcoming the fact that our client had three prior deportations by successfully arguing that, in passing his protection interview and proving that he has a significant possibility of winning his case, he has shown that he is not a flight risk. They are now reunited and living with family in Maryland.
Honduran Mom and Three Minor Children Released and Reunited
Our client Luz was released from detention and reunited with her three minor children, who were being held separately in an unaccompanied minors shelter in San Antonio. ”I’m still trying to absorb everything,” she told us, as she showed us her immigration paperwork telling her that she needs to report back to ICE in one week. ”Thank you so much for all your support,” she added, while we watched her children ran around the Catholic Charities reception center getting clothes and toys with smiles on their faces. Her and her three minor children were separated and detained by immigration for over two months.
Eritrean Man Wins Protection under the UN Convention Against Torture
Pro Bono attorney Neil Cohen worked with the Migrant Center team to win protection for an Eritrean man who fled indefinite military servitude and torture for speaking out against the government’s policies. He was tied up in an infamous stress position for over 15 hours as a public message to others who might consider defying the regime. He was later thrown in prison and forced to engage in hard labor for two years.
Yemeni Man Wins Asylum
Yemeni man wins asylum after the Migrant Center helps him prepare for court. Court preparation includes explaining trial rights and procedure, discussing how to effectively communicate when working with an interpreter to present testimony, practicing sample questions, and reviewing legal requirements.
Asylum Office Reverses Negative Interview Results
After the Migrant Center presented new evidence and legal argument to the Asylum Office, they agreed to change their decision and give our Cuban client a chance to present her political opinion asylum case to a judge. The Immigration Judge had already signed off on the initial negative credible fear interview results and she was scheduled for imminent deportation.
Judge Grants Bond to Austin Man
The Immigration Judge granted bond to our client, a long-time Austin resident from Honduras who was suffering severe stomach pain and anxiety in detention. He has now been able to reunite with his family and will be able to pursue his asylum case from outside detention.
NTA Issued in Split Family Case
A Guatemalan father of three girls who was forcibly separated from them by CPB was recently issued a Notice To Appear placing him in removal proceedings after the Migrant Center reached out to the Asylum Office about the due process problems involved in keeping the family separated. As a result, he can now pursue an asylum case and seek his release from detention to be with his daughters.
Transgender Woman Wins Protection
The Migrant Center helped a transgender woman from Honduras win protection in the U.S. In addition to facing years of discrimination and harassment, she was recently targeted by the gangs for forced conversion / punishing by rape. Thank you to those who supported her case.
Wimberley Mom Released
The Migrant Center represented Maria Garcia, a mom of two, who was granted a bond by the Immigration Judge, allowing her to return to her family and friends in Wimberley. We would like to thank all those in the community who supported her and her family during the difficult five weeks she spent in detention, including Mano Amiga, Wimberley Indivisible, and Dream Activist.
Guatemalan Man Reunified with Family
The Migrant Center obtained a parole bond for a Guatemalan man who was forcibly separated from his wife and young child by immigration. He has now reunited with them in Maryland.
Asylum Seeking Mother Granted Bond
The Migrant Center represented a Honduran mother of a 2-year-old child in obtaining a bond from the Immigration Judge. She is now able to join her child and her mother and siblings in the United States while she pursues her asylum case.
Congolese Man Wins Asylum
The Migrant Center helped a man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo win asylum. He was brutally tortured by the government for supporting an opposition political party. He attended an evidence prep workshop and a court prep workshop. We were also able to find him a pro bono translator who helped put his documents in English for the court.
Ethiopian Man Wins Asylum
The Migrant Center won asylum for an Ethiopian man who was tortured by his government based on false accusations of involvement with an independence rebel group solely because of his ethnicity and family relationship. The Migrant Center won his case after four years of litigation before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. We would like to thank all our partners in this case, including ProBAR, RAICES, NIJC, and the law firm of Gibson Dunn. In the words of the asylum seeker, ”Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I’m really happy.”
Wimberley Man Released
The Migrant Center obtained a 1,500 bond, the lowest amount possible, for a Wimberley community member, husband and father of three children, and grandfather of a 2 ½ year old U.S. citizen. We would like to thank the community for all their support, including the team at Mano Amiga, Dream Activist, and Wimberley Indivisible.
Father of Five Avoids Deportation
The Migrant Center for Human Rights helped a father of five get taken out of Expedited Removal, a legal process that would have seen him quickly deported to Mexico, based on his over 10 years living in the United States and clean criminal record. He now has the right to speak with an Immigration Judge and request Cancellation of Removal, giving him a chance at a green card. He has one US citizen child, a legal permanent resident child, and several children who have DACA. He was also granted a bond and has now returned home and is living with his family while he pursues his case.
The Migrant Center for Human Rights helps two men – one from Gambia and one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo – win asylum pro se. They won their cases after attending evidence and court prep workshops hosted by the Migrant Center, receiving human rights evidence packets to support their cases, and meeting one-on-one with a Migrant Center lawyer to prepare for their final court hearing. In the words of one of the men, ‘‘thank you for everything’’.
The Migrant Center for Human Rights obtained release for an asylum seeker who was forcibly separated from his wife. Although his wife remains detained at Hutto, he has been able to visit her with the help of the staff at Casa Marianella, an immigrant shelter in Austin where he is staying.
The Migrant Center for Human Rights obtained release for an asylum seeker with medical concerns, who fainted twice while in detention, always felt dizzy, and often had to walk with his hand along the wall or sit down to steady himself. Other detainees would see him shake and offer to carry his food tray. On Monday October 25th he arrived at his family’s home in New Jersey.
The Migrant Center for Human Rights convinced an Immigration Judge to reconsider his denial of asylum, thereby vacating his deportation order and reopening removal proceedings. Amadou (name changed to protect client confidentiality) fled political and ethnic persecution at the hands of the Guinean government.
The Migrant Center for Human Rights, in collaboration with RAICES, won asylum for a Guatemalan woman and her children. Maria (name changed to protect client confidentiality) and her children fled more than 12 years of domestic violence after the Guatemalan police and court system repetitively failed to protect her and her children.