Greenberg Traurig Pro Bono Team in Mexico Represents Persecuted Salvadoran Seeking Refugee Status, Family Reunification

JJ hugging his brothers as a result of a reunification process.

JJ hugging his brothers as a result of a reunification process. ©ACNUR/ Angélica Montes

Following two years of pro bono representation, attorney Elba Gutiérrez, together with Law Clerk Fernando Alamilla, in the Mexico City office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP obtained refugee status for client “JJ”, a Salvadoran man. JJ had been persecuted in El Salvador for refusing to cooperate with gangs and for his sexual orientation. Greenberg Traurig’s team also represented him in the reunification process with his two brothers in Mexico, just in time for the 2021 holidays. The case was referred to the firm by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“The protection of human rights is key in defending democracy and the Rule of Law. These cases are important because they offer protection to people who are vulnerable to revictimization and abuse of authority by governmental agencies,” said Gutiérrez, Practice Attorney and Pro Bono Manager at Greenberg Traurig. “Witnessing the three brothers reunited and hugging each other at the airport has been one of the most heartwarming scenes I have seen.”

In early 2020, JJ was detained by Mexican immigration authorities. He was held under precarious conditions at an unofficial immigration center near the southern border. Greenberg Traurig’s work included representing JJ in his release from the immigration detention center, counseling during his refugee status determination, and family reunification before the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR). JJ’s two younger siblings were also victims of attempted forced recruitment and gang threats in their home country. The legal strategy included litigation and amparo lawsuits, given that COMAR has suspended process times in refugee status determination, family reunifications, and other procedures, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents a breach of human rights. Although refugees in Mexico have the right to family reunification, COMAR’s requirements can make the process extremely challenging.

JJ’s reunification case is a triumph for him and his siblings, as well as a legal victory. Johanna Roldán, Senior Protection Officer at UNHCR in Mexico mentioned, “Greenberg Traurig’s work shows how access to legal counselling and representation can make a difference, not only within refugee status determination procedures, but also in accessing fundamental rights and rebuilding their lives in host communities. Lawyers not only help refugees navigate administrative and legal procedures but empower them to access rights they are entitled to. We appreciate the excellent work the team of lawyers at GT is doing, which contributes to strengthening the asylum space in Mexico”.

“The current migratory context is very complex, with policies that severely limit the rights of people who are most vulnerable. We feel honored to contribute to the protection of migrants’ and asylum seekers’ human rights through the alliance of our pro bono program with the UNHCR Mexico,” said Daniela Reyes, Pro Bono Coordinator at Greenberg Traurig’s Mexico City office.

In 2017, Greenberg Traurig became the first firm in Mexico to sign a collaboration agreement with UNHCR. The firm has since assisted other law firms to manage similar cases. In addition to the work with UNHCR, Greenberg Traurig represents vulnerable refugees around the world as part of its award-winning pro bono program. The Mexico City office was recently recognized by Appleseed Foundation as Law Firm of the Year in a ceremony held in November 2021.

About Greenberg Traurig’s Pro Bono Program:
Greenberg Traurig lawyers across the firm’s offices provide pro bono legal services to the indigent and working poor, as well as to numerous civic and charitable organizations dedicated to assisting them. The firm worldwide focuses its resources on specialized and interrelated issues including civil rights and affirmative action, anti-human trafficking, family law matters, children’s rights, criminal appeals, immigration and political asylum, housing, and homelessness.

About Greenberg Traurig’s Mexico City Office:
Greenberg Traurig’s Mexico City office offers clients innovative, strategic advice and legal services that span both traditional fields and contemporary regulatory sectors. The office has more than 60 bilingual attorneys who have been contributors to major national projects in Mexico and leverages the resources and reach of the firm’s global platform to provide clients with tailored legal services reflective of the specific industry and market conditions in which they operate. The Mexico City office is an integral part of the firm’s award-winning Latin America Practice, and has been recognized with leading competition, corporate, M&A, infrastructure, real estate, privacy, energy, administrative litigation, and banking practices in Mexico.

About Greenberg Traurig:
Greenberg Traurig, LLP has more than 2400 attorneys in 42 locations in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. The firm, often recognized for its focus on philanthropic giving, innovation, diversity, and pro bono, reported gross revenue of over $2 Billion for FY 2021. The firm is consistently among the top firms on the Am Law 100, Am Law Global 100, NLJ 250, and Law360 (US) 400. On the debut 2022 Law360 Pulse Leaderboard, it is a Top 15 firm. Greenberg Traurig is Mansfield Rule 4.0 Certified Plus by The Diversity Lab and net carbon neutral with respect to its office energy usage. Web: http://www.gtlaw.com

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