Firm Obtains Pro Bono Victories for Victims of Persecution from Guatemala, Mexico, Zimbabwe, and Spain

In recent weeks, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati attorneys have secured a number of favorable outcomes on behalf of foreign-born pro bono clients.

The firm secured asylum for a young woman from Guatemala who faced persecution from both an organized crime syndicate and her own government. Her family had become victims of land-title fraud perpetrated by an extensive criminal syndicate with powerful connections within the Guatemalan government. When the family discovered the fraud, the criminal syndicate murdered the young woman's husband and mother-in-law, and then threatened to kill her. In light of the threats posed by the criminal syndicate and the Guatemalan government's documented record of corruption, the asylum officer found her fear of future persecution in Guatemala to be well founded and approved her application for asylum.

In addition, a WSGR pro bono team secured U-visa nonimmigrant status for a Mexican woman who had endured severe violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She has lived in California since 2003, and when she left her ex-boyfriend, he stalked her and told her that if she reported him to the police she would be deported. Nonetheless, she reported his crimes and cooperated in his prosecution. She and her 10-year-old son (who was born in Mexico) were granted U-visa nonimmigrant status and received employment authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They now can remain in the United States with the woman's U.S.-born six-year-old daughter.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati also negotiated a stipulation for withholding of removal on behalf a Zimbabwean man who came to the United States in 2009 after suffering persecution in his home country related to a trip he made to the U.S. in 2008 to volunteer for a charitable organization. Upon returning from his trip, he was accused of traveling to the United States for military training and serving as a spy for a political opponent of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party led by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. As a result, he was fired from his job and forced into hiding. He recently was married in the United States, and because his wife has a green card, the firm's attorneys now are assisting in the preparation of I-130 and I-485 petitions in the hopes that he can obtain permanent resident status and, eventually, American citizenship.

Furthermore, attorneys from the firm recently obtained permanent residency for a pro bono client who left her home in her native Spain to be closer to her daughter, who lives in the United States. A few years after coming to the U.S. on a visitor's visa, she married a United States citizen, but quickly fell subject to severe emotional, physical, and financial abuse by him. Eventually, fearing for her own life and the life of her daughter, the woman left her husband and sought shelter and legal assistance. After multiple submissions, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approved her I-360 application for status as an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen, thereby allowing her to apply for permanent residency. Months later, Isabel's application for residency was approved in late December 2011. She plans to pursue citizenship as soon as legally possible.

In related news, Mark Parnes, WSGR's pro bono coordinator and assistant general counsel, recently was presented with the Robert G. Sproul, Jr. Award for his contributions to the legal community at the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon hosted by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. The award recognizes Mark's "outstanding leadership within the legal community, exemplified by a demonstrated commitment to providing pro bono services and advocating within the private bar for continued pro bono representation of disadvantaged communities."