Honduran Mother and Child Win Motion to Reopen Removal Proceedings

August 7, 2017

Cleary Gottlieb successfully filed a motion before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to reopen the removal proceedings of Ms. E and her 10-year-old daughter, who were ordered removed from the United States in January 2017, based on the ineffective assistance of Ms. E’s former immigration counsel.

As a result of the BIA’s decision, Ms. E and her daughter may now remain in the U.S. and continue pursuing their asylum claims.

A citizen of Honduras, Ms. E was repeatedly threatened by the MS13 gang, due in part to her involvement in a parents’ association that tried to curtail the gang’s activities in her daughter’s school. In June 2014, following extortion attempts and death threats, she and her daughter fled to the United States after they were accosted by gang members at gunpoint.

Although Ms. E retained an attorney to represent her and her daughter in their removal proceedings, the attorney failed to obtain evidence and waived valid legal arguments in support of Ms. E’s asylum claim. The Immigration Court denied Ms. E’s asylum claim, and the BIA affirmed the Immigration Court’s decision. At the prior attorney’s advice, Ms. E filed a pro se petition for review (PFR) with the Fourth Circuit. At this point, Cleary joined the case with the expectation of representing Ms. E in the Fourth Circuit. The Cleary team, however, soon discovered that Ms. E’s former immigration counsel miscalculated the filing deadline for the PFR, resulting in Ms. E having filed the PFR one day late, and the PFR was dismissed as untimely.

The Cleary team immediately began exploring the possibility of filing a Motion to Reopen the removal proceedings with the BIA. Working under a tight deadline, the team scrutinized the Immigration Court record, found additional instances of ineffective assistance of counsel, interviewed witnesses to Ms. E’s persecution in Honduras, and retained experts on country conditions and mental health.

On July 24, 2017, the BIA granted the Motion to Reopen. As a result, Ms. E will now have the opportunity to stay in the United States and fully present her asylum claim before the Immigration Court.