Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Weil Secures Asylum for El Salvadoran Fearing Persecution from Gangs

(September 4, 2012, Weil News)

Attorneys in the Washington, DC office successfully concluded a decade-long asylum pro bono matter on August 10, 2012, when the US Immigration Court in Arlington, VA, granted asylum to our client, a native of El Salvador.

Our client came to the US from El Salvador when he was just 16, fleeing abuse by the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang. At two asylum hearings in 2003 and 2004, Weil presented evidence that our client endured extortion, violence and death threats following his open defiance of the gang, and demonstrated why returning would expose him to further persecution. While the immigration court found the evidence to be credible, it denied asylum on the basis that our client’s fear of persecution on account of his opposition to gang membership on religious grounds did not fall within any category protected under the immigration laws. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the denial of asylum.

In 2006, we filed a petition for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Office of Immigration Litigation within the Civil Division of the Department of Justice agreed that another look at the case was appropriate and consented to remand of the case in light of new precedent and the need to consider whether the proper “mixed-motive” analysis was conducted in evaluating whether our client’s fear of persecution on account of his membership in a protected group was recognized by the law. The Fourth Circuit remanded the case to the BIA and the BIA, in turn, remanded the case to the immigration court.

On remand the Weil team demonstrated that the court had not applied the proper mixed-motive analysis and that intervening precedent made asylum appropriate. In his 14-page opinion, US Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra reversed his prior decision and granted asylum, finding that our client had a well-founded fear of persecution based on his religious opposition to gang membership.

The Weil team was based in the Washington, DC office and included partner Ron Pabis; associates Rachelle Thompson, Katie Brandes, and Cariza Arnedo; summer associate Daniel Riegel; and paralegal Sara Panfil. Former Weil associates Alicia Cate and David Taylor also worked on the matter.
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