By: Catie Jennetta

In March, senior attorney Rachel Zoghlin successfully presented two challenging cases before the Baltimore Immigration Court. Her first case involved a Guatemalan national who has lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. Although he had no criminal record, he was arrested and detained by ICE last August. Sadly, his arrest came on the date of his third wedding anniversary, and just days after he and his U.S. citizen wife received the happy news that she was pregnant with their second child.

After overcoming several major legal hurdles, Rachel successfully argued that the Immigration Judge should allow her client to seek a special protection called Withholding of Removal.  Unfortunately, due to the legal posture of the case, our client was ineligible for release on a bond, and was forced to fight his case from an ICE detention facility.  At the hearing, the client testified to his fear of returning to Guatemala, based on his family relationship to his older sister and issues that arose between his family and another family in his town nearly two decades ago. Despite all odds, and thanks to Rachel’s persistence and dedication throughout every step of the months-long process, the Judge granted our client Withholding of Removal on the spot. Our client was recently released, and finally reunited with his U.S. citizen wife, their two-year-old daughter, and their newborn son after nearly seven long months of separation.

Rachel’s second case, just one week later, involved a Salvadoran mother and two of her minor children. The family fled El Salvador after gangs threatened their lives, because the client’s then-12-year-old son refused to join their ranks. The family had been fighting their asylum case in Immigration Court since they entered the U.S. more than 3 years ago. In that time, shifts in the policy climate around asylum have made it much more difficult for gang-based claims like theirs to succeed. This week’s grant of their asylum application, however, provides this mother and her children some much-needed respite and relief, and puts them on a path toward permanent residency, and eventually, U.S. citizenship.

This hearing also highlighted a rare glimpse of humanity in the immigration system. After the Immigration Judge granted asylum, he spoke directly to the clients: “I’m sure you did not feel very welcomed when you first arrived in the United States, and I’m sorry about that. On behalf of the U.S. government, let me welcome you to this country officially. We are very glad that you are here. I am sure that it was very hard for you to leave your home country, and that you probably miss many parts of it, but hopefully you will continue to grow and continue to contribute positively to this country and to your community, and feel that this country is your home too.” The gesture is an inspiring example of compassion and empathy, all-too-often lacking in today’s immigration discourse. The moment was not lost on the client’s now 15-year-old son; he is taking an ROTC class in his high school, and stated that he wants to join the U.S. armed forces after he graduates. Congratulations to both families for the exciting news, and to Rachel for helping make it possible!