August 3, 2015
The Immigration Law Clinic gained asylum in Immigration Court for a family seeking asylum from El Salvador this July. The family consisted of a single mother and her two young children. The mother's young teenage son had been killed by the MS-13 gang for refusing to follow their orders. The gang then threatened the remaining family members and the police were unable to make any arrests or provide protection. With no other options, the mother brought her children to the United States to seek asylum.
In the spring semester, Jennifer Martin (3L) and Jessica Melgar (3L) conducted multiple cycles of research and client interviews to develop a legal strategy. The critical question in this case hung on whether the persecution was on account of a protected ground in asylum law. Martin and Melgar eventually pursued two arguments in this case. First they realized that family can be a protected social group and in this case the immediate family members were persecuted simply for their relationship to their son and brother who stood up to the gang. Second they argued that the mother had a political opinion defined as anti-gang/pro rule of law for her actions of requesting and encouraging a police investigation into the murder.
Martin continued her work on the case in the summer and worked tirelessly to prepare for the removal hearing. Fellow clinic students Wesley Lunkley, Kurt Bennett, and Dao Vang helped Martin run two mock hearings to prepare for court. The hard work paid off in San Francisco when Immigration Judge Dana Marks granted asylum to the family. The government attorney waived appeal and the decision is final.
After court ended Martin's client came over to her and gave her a long hug as she expressed her gratitude.
Martin said, "It was at this moment that I understood why I love doing the kind of work and service we provide at the clinic because not only am I getting ample professional experience, but I'm making a profound change in someone's life. Throughout this whole process, my client never doubted my ability and has always put all her faith in me. I will never forget my first experience in court, my client, her story, and each stage of the legal process. Since I started working at the clinic, I have reached a deeper appreciation for what I have and I have a great desire to advocate for those less fortunate in our community."