BIA Pro Bono Project
“It is not enough to just say ‘thank you,’” said John. “[The] work that you and your team did for us is beyond simple gratitude. Your help made my family happier, made us sure that tomorrow we will be safe and everything will be all right.” John and his wife fled Russia after he refused to serve in the Russian military and government officials threatened him. Eventually, they made it to the U.S.-Mexico border and sought asylum.
While in detention, John won withholding of removal before the immigration judge, but the Department of Homeland Security appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA. CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Project intervened to find John an attorney.
CLINIC referred this case to Anthony Vale of the Pepper Center for Public Service in May 2020. Rachel Naggar of the CLINIC BIA Pro Bono Project actively mentored Vale through the process as he successfully defended the grant of withholding. Best of all, BIA ordered the immigration judge to grant asylum, which she had previously denied based on the third-country transit rule. This allowed John’s wife to gain asylum as well.
Meanwhile, Vale also undertook significant federal court litigation to secure John’s release from ICE custody. By the time the government finally released John, he had spent a total of 560 days in detention.
"I'm very lucky that CLINIC referred my case to you," said John. "Your help saved me and my wife from a gloomy future. You were able to save my family...and now I can breathe freely. Now I'm even happier than I was. My wife is happy, I'm happy."
John and his wife are now able to raise their five-month-old son, who was born in the U.S., safely and most importantly, together.