The pro bono efforts of a team of lawyers from Merchant & Gould might have saved the lives of a Salvadoran woman and her family.
The team, including paralegals, and assistants, took on an asylum case from The Advocates for Human Rights, volunteering more than 400 hours of pro bono services to help a mother and her children from El Salvador seek and obtain asylum in the United States. The woman and her daughter and son were fleeing gang violence and persecution in their home country.
The family was attempting to leave behind an atmosphere of abuse and extortion. “I learned how to develop strategies that we could use in court,” said associate Emily M. Wessels. “The way you build a case for asylum can play a big role in its success.”
In addition to Wessels, the legal team included Rachel Clark Hughey, Christopher Davis and Joseph Dubis.
The team accumulated evidence from El Salvador, engaged expert witnesses, prepared the witnesses for hearing, and presented the case over four separate hearing days to an immigration judge. At hearings, they took the key expert witness testimony and fought off a government challenge.
The judge in the case issued an oral ruling granting the client and her children asylum on multiple grounds.
“Everyone is safe and sound, and that’s the main thing,” said Wessels.