Downey Brand Attorneys Secure Asylum for Pro Bono Client

July 24, 2018

Downey Brand is pleased to announce San Francisco partner Arielle O. Harris, and Sacramento associates including Joy Peng successfully obtained asylum for pro bono client C.M. from Honduras.

C.M. was an active member of his local church and regularly participated in church outreach and preaching activities to youth in his community who were either existing gang members or targets for gang recruitment. C.M. suffered repeated death threats and physical attacks as a result of his evangelical work and his persistent refusal to acquiesce to MS-13. In 2012, the threats were carried out in a severe beating that almost killed him, after which C. M. fled to the United States and immediately applied for asylum.

The case involved complicated issues of fact and law concerning the category of asylum known as “particular social group.” In preparation of extensive questions from the immigration judge on those issues, Downey Brand attorneys filed a lengthy Pre-Hearing Brief, significant supporting evidence, as well as a declaration from a country conditions expert.

On January 8, 2018, an immigration judge in the San Francisco Immigration Court granted asylum to C.M. On February 8, 2018 the decision became final after the Department of Homeland Security declined to appeal the decision, which means C.M. may lawfully remain in the United States and may apply to become a United States citizen. Downey Brand also assisted C.M. in obtaining work authorization so that he could seek employment while awaiting the final order of the immigration judge.

This was an exceptionally positive outcome, given that few asylum cases are granted. In 2016, out of the 65,218 defensive asylum applications (applications filed for asylum by individuals after being placed in removal proceedings by immigration enforcement officials) filed with the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, only 8,726 were granted (13.4%). Of the 8,726 defensive asylum grants, only 620 were for individuals from Honduras.

Downey Brand partnered with Centro Legal De La Raza, who also provided Downey Brand with volunteer Spanish translators. Downey Brand is honored to be a part of the success story and life-changing events for C.M.