An Alston & Bird pro bono team won U.S. asylum for a transgender woman from El Salvador.
Since the age of 6, the client was subject to public abuse, beatings, and even torture by family, gang members, and the community at large because of her gender identity. When she was 11, she fled her hometown, only to become the victim of repeated rapes, violent assaults, and attempts to take her life, often perpetrated by police or soldiers, who commit such crimes against transgender women in El Salvador with impunity. Her brother rose to become a leader in the MS-13 gang and vowed to kill her for disgracing him and their family. He almost succeeded, but she escaped and fled to the U.S., the only place she felt she could be safe from his reach. She lawfully presented herself at the U.S. border in early December 2018 seeking asylum and was held in detention in Pearsall, TX.
Alston & Bird accepted her case in March 2019 and received significant support from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Two months later, based on the strength of the evidentiary presentation and argument offered by the firm on the client’s behalf, the immigration judge ruled in favor of asylum from the bench. The government also took the unusual steps of offering no cross-examination of the client and no argument before the decision. Then, after the decision was issued, the government waived its right to appeal. As a result, the client obtained her freedom from the detention center that evening.
The Alston & Bird pro bono team representing the woman was led by partner Michael Agoglia, senior associates Rachel Naor and Heather Barger, and associate Patrick Arnold (Litigation); senior associate Michael Kellermann and paralegal Daniel Klein (Energy); and associate David Mohl (Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation).