A short time ago, Luis, a young deaf man, was living in his native country in Central America. While out for a walk with his friend, a notorious gang drove by; shots were fired; and then Luis’s friend was dead. Sometime after the murder, the gang found Luis and threatened to take his life if he disclosed what he had witnessed. The gang had previously confronted Luis, having hit him in his skull with a heavy rock, leaving a wide scar across the side of his face. Terrified, Luis fled his native country. He walked for miles upon miles toward the United States. When deep, still rivers blocked his way to our country he swam and swam across the rivers, only to return to land, once again, where he walked across countries.
Upon entering the United States, Luis was apprehended by federal immigration agents. He was placed in detention without the benefit of sign language interpreters to explain his situation; he appeared before tribunals where, again, there were no sign language interpreters to interpret the proceedings; and, finally Luis was released, while his legal team pled his case for asylum. Asylum seekers bear the burden of proving that they possess a well-founded fear of persecution if removed to their home country. In Luis’s case, fortunately, asylum was granted.
It is well known that many individuals like Luis face deportation, an act of expulsion from the United States, returning to perilous conditions at home. A few months ago, it was reported that immigration authorities were ready to detain and deport nearly one million undocumented immigrants.
In a foreword to the book, Compassionomics, the nationally renowned attorney, Bryan Stevenson, argues that at the heart of the ideals that we hold close as a nation is “our ability in any moment, to choose to exercise compassion.” He continues: “Throughout our history, it has been those seemingly small acts of kindness, decency, and compassion that have affected change.” Today, as we enter the holiday season, the call for compassion demands our most urgent and profound response.
Please join us at our Annual Event on December 10th as we present The Access to Justice Award to Ropes & Gray