Arent Fox Pro Bono Client Granted Asylum
In May 2019, Arent Fox LLP Partner J.H. Jennifer Lee and Associates Gary D. Brophy and Julia E. Johnson filed an application for asylum on behalf of the family of four. The application sought asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and, in the alternative, protection under the United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT), an international human rights treaty designed to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
“We couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this case,” said Ms. Lee. “By advancing new theories on particular social groups in Mexico and leveraging opinions of highly credentialed experts, we were able to use existing law to advocate for our clients in a way that had not been done before. Professionally and personally, this has been a key moment of my legal career.”
The mother is the widow of a former anti-narcotics Mexican Military infantry soldier who was murdered by organized crime networks. Those crime networks also persecuted, threatened, and tortured the mother, forcing her to flee her home country. Arent Fox argued its clients were entitled to asylum under the INA on two, independent grounds: the mother’s past persecution and well-founded fear of future persecution were on account of both (1) her membership in one or more particular social groups (PSGs); and (2) political opinions imputed upon her by her persecutors.
Arent Fox’s specifically defined PSG’s were novel legal arguments without legal precedent, and successfully distinguished a recent decision by former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which had overturned a grant of asylum on parallel facts. Arent Fox also submitted evidence and argument that the mother’s membership in the PSG’s satisfied the requisite element of social distinction in Mexico, and that internal relocation to other districts in Mexico would be futile in her effort to flee persecution.
The court agreed, granting Arent Fox’s client asylum. Additionally, counsel for the Department of Homeland Security deemed it appropriate in this case to waive appeal, making this victory a final order. With this grant of asylum in the United States, the mother and her three minor children will not be forced to return to face potential harm in their home country.
The asylum case is part of a broader pro bono effort the firm has created in response to the detention of families at the southern border. The program, called AFCares, has included on-the-ground volunteer work, pro bono legal support, policy advocacy, and an internal fundraising campaign. Click here to learn more about how you can help.
AF Pro Bono
Lawyers have a special obligation to the administration of justice. Arent Fox believes that community service and pro bono work are integral to the practice of law. The firm has made it a priority to give voices to those who otherwise might not be heard. Learn more.