Debevoise Wins Asylum for 6-Year-Old Central American Client, One of the First Victims of the Trump Family Separation Policy

15 October 2019

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has successfully obtained asylum for the firm’s client D., a six-year-old from a Central American country. Detained after crossing the border with his mother, D. was one of the first victims of Trump’s family separation policy. After initially being held together in a Texas border town, D. was taken from his mother. She remained in detention for two months, and he was sent to a human services agency in the Northeast and later to a foster home. D. was then released into his father’s custody and his mother was able to join them after she was released. 

D. and his mother, who are of indigenous heritage, hail from a rural village of about 250 people. When D. was six-months old, his father came to the United States in order to work and send money back to his wife and son. D. and his mother became the target of criminals who knew of the remittances. D.’s mother received multiple phone calls threatening to kill and/or kidnap her and her son, and they were once physically attacked and robbed while leaving a bank. The police, who particularly in rural communities of this Central American country have a well-documented record of neglecting to investigate crimes committed against indigenous people, turned D. and his mother away when they sought help. A few months after the attack, they began their journey to the United States.

A local Texas immigration lawyer referred the case to Debevoise. The Debevoise legal team filed an application for affirmative asylum for D. He had his asylum interview eight short weeks after his application was initially filed. He was courageous in telling his story and made a compelling case to the asylum officer. USCIS granted D. asylum.   

The firm is also representing D.’s mother in her defensive asylum petition before immigration court and hope that D.’s victory will make her case that much stronger.

The Debevoise team was led by associates Carolina de Barros, Laurah Samuels, and Rebecca Urquiola, and supervised by partner Courtney Dankworth and pro bono counsel Jennifer Cowan. Associate Michael Gramer also helped D. practice answering interview questions the day before his USCIS interview, senior corporate transactions manager Elizabeth Pena translated for D. and his mother, and summer associates Andrea Acosta and Delia Arias De Leon assisted with preparing the brief and affidavits.