NEW YORK – Feb. 08, 2021 -- After 10 months of intense legal battles, global law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP and non-profit Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, have prevented the deportation of two Haitian families who fled political persecution and succeeded in obtaining them the right to seek asylum in the United States.
The families, one with a 2-year old and one with a 3-year old, were released in January 2021 after being held in a Pennsylvania detention center since March 2020. One of the parents released said, “I don’t have the words to even start to say what is in my heart, but today…is the greatest day for me, after the day I was born.”
The families fled Haiti in 2019, each having been subjected to violence or threats of violence as a result of their political affiliations and having lost many relatives in Haiti to politically motivated killings. They traveled through nearly 12 countries during the ensuing year to seek asylum in the United States. When they arrived at the United States-Mexico border, they were detained in a facility with unbearably cold temperatures and were not provided toothpaste or allowed to bathe. The children stopped eating and became so dehydrated, they required IV fluids. The families were subjected to a now-vacated policy that deemed them ineligible to seek asylum because they had not sought asylum in one of the countries through which they had travelled.
According to Bridget Cambria, an immigration attorney from Aldea, “Within 24 hours after arriving, the parents were placed on a telephone and required to undergo an asylum screening, without an opportunity to consult with an attorney about their rights. They had no understanding of the purpose of the telephone interview or who was questioning them.”
Cambria also said the families were prohibited from applying for asylum under an unlawful policy and detained for the next 10 months.
“Greenberg Traurig and Aldea filed numerous lawsuits challenging illegal procedures and improper standards of refugee law levied against these and other families, and most recently filed an action in the Third Circuit, which granted a stay of their deportation pending disposition of their appeal from immigration judges’ affirmation of the decision of the asylum office to prohibit them from seeking asylum,” said Caroline J. Heller, Greenberg Traurig Litigation shareholder and chair of the firm’s global Pro Bono program. “Finally, in January, after multiple requests for new asylum fear interviews under proper asylum standards, and the submission reports from an expert in conditions in Haiti and documents confirming the families’ stories of persecution, the Asylum Office agreed to grant new interviews to the families and determined that the families were eligible to seek asylum.”
In addition to Heller, the Greenberg Traurig team on the Third Circuit litigation included associate Taylor N. Patton of the firm’s West Palm Beach office and Martial Bonhomme, a paralegal in the firm’s New York office.
“Taylor responded to an emergency email sent on a Saturday, and in 48 hours, prepared filings for the families in the Third Circuit that eventually prevented their deportation. Martial provided telephonic translation services on a Sunday to help the immigration attorney from Aldea prepare the families for their new interviews,” Heller said.
Greenberg Traurig and Aldea will now help the families with their petitions for asylum.
“This has been a complex, year-long saga, but we had a passionate team of over one dozen Greenberg Traurig attorneys and staff and multiple non-profits assisting in the various litigations that ultimately resulted in these families being granted the right to seek asylum they should have been granted nearly one year ago,” Heller said.
About Aldea - The People’s Justice Center: Aldea provides a holistic approach to meeting the multi-faceted needs of immigrant community members, including through legal, social, educational, and medical services. Website: www.aldeapjc.org
About Greenberg Traurig’s Pro Bono Program: Greenberg Traurig lawyers across the firm’s offices provide pro bono legal services to the indigent and working poor, as well as to numerous civic and charitable organizations dedicated to assisting them. The firm focuses its resources on specialized and interrelated issues including civil rights and affirmative action, anti-human trafficking, family law matters, children’s rights, criminal appeals, immigration and political asylum, housing, and homelessness.
About Greenberg Traurig: Greenberg Traurig, LLP (GT) has approximately 2200 attorneys in 40 locations in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. GT has been recognized for its philanthropic giving, diversity, and innovation, and is consistently among the largest firms in the U.S. on the Law360 400 and among the Top 20 on the Am Law Global 100. The firm is net carbon neutral with respect to its office energy usage and Mansfield Rule 3.0 Certified. Web: www.gtlaw.com