Gibson Dunn’s pro bono work on behalf of immigrants and refugees over the last few months has been unprecedented in its scale and scope. The projects have ranged from emergency work by attorneys in the early hours after the first “Travel Ban” Executive Order was signed, to high-profile individual representations of immigrants facing deportation, to amicus briefs for dozens of firm clients advocating on behalf of core values, including a commitment to diversity. While the topic of immigration can spark intense debate and passion, particularly in the current political climate, Gibson Dunn’s pro bono work does not seek to advocate any specific policy position or further any political agenda. Instead, the uniting force behind our work has been – and continues to be – a shared commitment to protecting the Constitution, upholding the rule of law, and providing access to justice for all. As lawyers, we have a special ability – and indeed – a duty to influence and impact society, in the courts and through pro bono work and leadership in institutions that promote constitutional rights. These principles have always been a bedrock of what it means to be a lawyer at Gibson Dunn, and in the last several months we have been proud to work with lawyers from across the world to ensure that these values are protected in our society.

Of course, this type of work is nothing new for the firm. In 2016, Gibson Dunn dedicated over 30,500 hours to doing pro bono immigration work, including: asylum applications, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions, U Visas, T Visas, refugee work, DACA applications and renewals, and appellate work on behalf of immigrants and immigrant rights. We also work with dozens of organizations across the country that focus their efforts exclusively or at least in part on immigrants: Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), OneJustice, Immigration Equality, Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, Centro Legal de la Raza, Human Rights First, Sanctuary for Families, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Her Justice, Legal Services NYC, the Accountability Unit, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. This newsletter also highlights recent victories for pro bono clients referred to the firm by some of these partner organizations.

Thank you and keep up the good work!

Best Wishes,
Scott Edelman and Katie Marquart

Response to the “Travel Ban” Executive Order

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States Executive Order.” Among its provisions were the restriction of “immigrant and nonimmigrant” entry of non-citizens from seven countries for 90 days, suspension of all refugee admission for 120 days, and indefinite prohibition of refugees from Syria. Within hours of the Executive Order being issued, chaos broke out at airports across the country, as individuals flying into the United States were stopped, detained and, in some instances, sent back to the country from where they had just departed.

In this time of great uncertainty, lawyers throughout the country stepped up, banded together, and worked to protect the civil liberties and due process rights of individuals impacted by the Executive Order, and to protect the rule of law. Gibson Dunn is very proud to have been a big part of that effort. Several days before the Travel Ban was issued, one of our longtime legal aid partners, the International Refugee Assistance Project, had reached out to the firm to enlist our assistance in the event that individuals were adversely impacted by the Travel Ban. As such, when the first Travel Ban was issued, the firm was already poised to step in and provide much needed pro bono assistance to the thousands of individuals impacted. We deployed attorneys to airports around the country at all hours of the day and night to monitor incoming flights, observe the activities of relevant officials and government agencies, and work with our legal aid partners to provide meaningful pro bono legal assistance to those in need. We had partners and associates on the ground working at Dallas Fort-Worth, Dulles, JFK, LAX, Newark, Oakland, and SFO. By the end of the first post-Travel Ban weekend, over 100 Gibson Dunn lawyers had stepped up and offered to help.

The firm provided direct legal assistance to detained individuals and their families, including drafting habeas petitions, negotiating with immigration officials, and obtaining detainees’ release and reunification with family and friends. We also responded to the many requests from our corporate clients regarding the impact of the various immigration-related executive orders on their employees and business practices. In addition, we gave our clients real-time updates about the rapidly-changing circumstances and how they may affect their businesses, employees, and contractors. We are proud to say that in the midst of great uncertainty, Gibson Dunn responded with agility, determination, compassion and grace.

Gibson Dunn Files Amicus Brief in the E.D.N.Y. Darweesh Case

The firm filed an amicus brief in the Eastern District of New York case,Darweesh v. Trump, 1:17-cv-00480-CBA(E.D.N.Y.), which challenges the January 27 Executive Order. Amici in the case are a collection of prominent companies and employers in the United States, representing a range of industries, many of which are regular clients of Gibson Dunn. Amici are united, along with our firm, by their common belief that a workplace should be diverse and provide equal dignity and opportunities to its employees, contractors, and partners, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. They believe such a workplace is essential to recruiting and retaining the most talented possible workforce, achieving success in business, and delivering the best possible goods and services to the marketplace. They submitted this brief because the Travel Ban Executive Order impedes their ability to realize this core value.

Gibson Dunn Represents Dreamer Arrested in Seattle

On Friday, February 10, 2017, Daniel Ramirez was arrested and detained by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) inside his father’s home in Seattle, WA. Mr. Ramirez is what is commonly referred to as a “Dreamer.” He is a two-time beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. Under the DACA framework, individuals brought to the United States as children and who meet specific criteria, including passing a background check and providing fingerprints, may request deferred action from deportation for a period of two years, subject to renewal. Mr. Ramirez was brought to this country by his parents as a child, and has lived here ever since. He successfully applied for DACA in 2014, and again in 2016.

Gibson Dunn, along with Public Counsel, Larry Tribe, and Erwin Chemerinsky, filed a habeas petition on Monday, February 13, seeking Mr. Ramirez’s immediate release on the grounds that his arrest and detention violate his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Our lawsuit asserts that Mr. Ramirez and others like him, whom the United States government promised not to subject to such arbitrary detention if they adhered to the rules to live and work here lawfully, must not be expected to live in fear that any day they could be arbitrarily and capriciously arrested and detained.

Although the Court denied early attempts to get Mr. Ramirez conditionally released, on March 29th, we successfully secured his release from detention. After 46 days in detention, he was overjoyed to return to safety and to reunite with his family. Today, the battle continues: we are currently fighting Mr. Ramirez’s removal proceedings in immigration court and continuing the fight to vindicate his constitutional claims in federal court.

Ted Boutrous and Ethan Dettmer lead the Gibson Dunn team, which includes Naima Farrell, Jesse Gabriel, Kelsey Helland, Steve Henrick, Shailey Jain, Katie Marquart, David Schnitzer, and Jon Soleimani.

Gibson Dunn Secures Release and Permanent Legal Entry into the United States for Afghan Family Detained at LAX

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 2, 2017, a family of five Afghans traveling to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas, granted to them based on the father’s years of service to the U.S. government, was detained by Customs and Border Protection after landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Public Counsel and the International Refugee Assistance Project (“IRAP”) contacted Gibson Dunn when they learned of the detention – the evening of Friday, March 3 – to assist with drafting and filing a habeas corpus petition on behalf of the family, who had been held incommunicado for over 24 hours with no access to legal counsel.

A team of Gibson Dunn attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Denver, Washington, and New York worked around the clock to draft a habeas corpus petition for IRAP, as next friend of the Afghan family. The petition was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on that Saturday morning. Early Saturday afternoon, the team learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned to fly the mother and three children (ages 7, 6, and 8 months), who spoke no English, to a detention center in Texas. The team quickly prepared and filed a motion for a temporary restraining order while Danielle Katzir, Abbey Hudson, and Lali Madduri were dispatched to LAX to find the family. With less than half an hour remaining before the family’s scheduled departure to San Antonio (and after the plane had already begun to board), Judge Josephine L. Staton issued a TRO ordering that the family remain within the court’s jurisdiction and be given access to counsel. Danielle, Abbey, and Lali showed a pdf of the order on their cell phones to government officials, airline officials, and airport police, and convinced the officials not to force the mother and children onto the plane.

The Gibson Dunn and Public Counsel team began preparing for a hearing on their emergency TRO motion set for the afternoon of Monday, March 6. Just hours before the hearing, the government reversed course and agreed to release the family on parole. At the hearing, the court agreed to retain jurisdiction over the case pending the government’s final inspection of the family for admission on their visas in early April. The government conceded that the visas were still valid and that the family was never in any removal proceedings (notwithstanding their detention for four days and the government’s rush to fly the mother and children to Texas). As the arguments before the court in Santa Ana were underway, the family was reunited and released from detention in Los Angeles. With the help of a resettlement agency, the family continued their journey to their new home in Washington state.

There, the family awaited an April 5 deferred inspection appointment at which CBP would determine whether to admit them under their visas. As the date of the inspection approached, the government refused to share even the most basic information in the family’s immigration Alien Files (“A-Files”). The Gibson Dunn and Public Counsel team, concerned that the government was preparing to deny the clients admission to the United States and place them back in detention, filed an ex parte application and motion on March 31. After briefing over the weekend, the court granted our motion for clarification of the court’s previous order requiring 72-hours’ notice from the government prior to any adverse action adverse to the family, and granted expedited discovery of the A-Files. The government, now within the 72-hour window before the inspection but having failed to provide notice of any intent to take adverse action, filed a motion for clarification, which the court denied. In response, the government unilaterally postponed the deferred inspection for another week. After the government produced files that were heavily redacted and missing entire categories of documents, the team filed another ex parte application and a motion to compel complete production as the court had ordered. At a telephonic hearing on April 12, the day before the scheduled second deferred inspection, the court ordered in camera production of the withheld documents, but stated that the order would be suspended if the family was admitted under their visas.

On April 13 the family once again traveled to Seattle, and after being interviewed by CBP agents were admitted under their Special Immigrant Visas as lawful permanent residents of the United States. The family will be eligible to become citizens in five years.

Rob Blume led the habeas litigation team, which included Dan Bruggebrew, Amy Chmielewski, Sam Eisenberg, Kelsey Helland, Steve Henrick, Patty Herold, Abbey Hudson, Shailey Jain, Katie Marquart, Laura Sturges, and Jenna Yott. Danielle Katzir, Abbey Hudson, and Lali Madduri served the court’s order on officials at LAX, and later assisted in ensuring the family’s safe transit out of government custody. Sam Newman and Doug Levin traveled to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department facility to interview the father and prepare his declaration.

Recent Wins for Gibson Dunn’s Immigration Clients

On April 12, 2017, Gibson Dunn’s clients, a recently-married couple from Guatemala and El Salvador, were granted asylum in the United States, with the assistance of Philip Shapiro, Phillip Sanders, and Michelle Santoro, under the supervision of Joe Evall. The wife is a transgender woman who suffered four severe assaults by co-workers, gang members and strangers in Guatemala due to their perception that she was a gay man. She was also severely abused by her family, who refused to accept what they viewed as “feminine” behavior and attraction to men. To escape this persecution, she emigrated from Guatemala to the United States in 2002, but did not consider seeking asylum until she had begun to transition to her correct gender in 2014. She was referred to Gibson Dunn that year, and an asylum application was promptly prepared and filed in December 2014. While awaiting an asylum interview, Gibson Dunn helped her to change her name to conform to her gender and obtain work authorization and a Social Security number. After she married in October 2016, the Firm took on her husband as a client. At the couple’s request, he was joined to his wife’s pending asylum application. An asylum interview was scheduled in February 2017. The Gibson Dunn team prepared an extensive letter-brief establishing the wife’s grounds for asylum and why she should be excused from the one-year filing deadline typically required in asylum applications. After the interview, the Asylum Officer took the unusual step of inviting supplemental briefing on difficult issues the case presented. Their new status will enable the husband to obtain work authorization as well, which they hope will finally enable them to afford a honeymoon in Miami.

On April 13 and 18, 2017, two teenage brothers from El Salvador were granted asylum in the United States with the assistance of Gibson Dunn associates Philip Shapiro, Julie Inglese, Haresh Prasad, and Ryan Oringer, under the supervision of Jennifer Conn. In El Salvador, Mara 18 gang members had threatened the older boy with death unless he agreed to spy on a rival gang for them. Fearing for their lives and the growing threat to their family, the brothers fled to the United States to escape this persecution in mid-2015. The brothers were referred by the organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) to Gibson Dunn, which submitted asylum applications on their behalves in December 2016. The Gibson Dunn team prepared the brothers for their interviews, prepared extensive briefing addressing the difficult legal issues presented in the case, and presented arguments to the Asylum Office. KIND had advised Gibson Dunn that, due to the matter’s complexity, it was very likely that the Asylum Office would refer the case to Immigration Court (formally, the Executive Office for Immigration Review), which would defer adjudication of the applications for years. However, the Gibson Dunn team successfully convinced the New Jersey Asylum Office that it had the power to grant asylum under the difficult factual circumstances. Now, these young brothers can live free from the fear of deportation back to El Salvador, can legally work and study in the United States, and will soon be eligible to seek lawful permanent residence status.

On March 22, 2017, Zach Lloyd, Casper Yen, and Alma Gonzalez successfully obtained asylum for RV, a young immigrant from Mexico. RV, now age 17, had come to the United States on January 7, 2016, seeking political and religious asylum from the gang and drug-related violence that has decimated his rural farming community. Before fleeing, he had witnessed the death and torture of several of his close friends and family members. He is now living with his brother in Santa Ana, CA, and attending Century High School.

Since March 2016, Gibson Dunn has represented OV, a 12-year-old boy from Honduras abandoned by both of his parents. OV and his remaining family became the target of ongoing gang violence, culminating in the murder and disappearance of multiple relatives and loved ones. By September 2016, Gibson Dunn successfully secured legal guardianship and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”) predicate findings for OV, making him eligible for a special immigrant visa. In February 2017, while the visa petition was pending, the Immigration Court granted Gibson Dunn’s motion for administrative closure, effectively ending OV’s removal proceedings until the visa is granted. OV is currently living happily in the United States with his uncle and attending a public elementary school, where his favorite subject is math. Gibson Dunn associates Eugene J. Chao and Eun Sung Lim, with partner Jeffery C. Krause, handled OV’s case from the start, with assistance from KIND.

On February 22, 2017, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted our motion to remand our client’s case back to the Immigration Judge for further fact finding. This favorable BIA decision gives our client—who was brought to the United States as an infant and lived here all his life—a new opportunity to demonstrate why he is eligible to remain in the country. Our client was born in Mexico and brought to the United States as an infant. In 2008, he was deported to Mexico after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. While in Mexico, he was the target of multiple assaults and harassment by Mexican police, who believed our client was a gang member (he is not). In fear for his life, our client returned to the United States in 2012 and was detained at the border, where he asserted claims for withholding of removal and CAT protection. An Immigration Judge held a hearing and found that our client’s testimony was not credible. Our client appealed pro se to the BIA, which affirmed the IJ’s adverse credibility finding. Our client then appealed to the Ninth Circuit. On appeal, the government agreed to remand the case back to the BIA for reexamination of the adverse credibility determination. At that point, our Gibson Dunn team was retained to assist with the client’s BIA appeal. In our brief, we argued to the BIA that the IJ’s adverse credibility finding was not supported by the record. The Government submitted a brief opposing our requested relief. In February 2017, the BIA sided with the Gibson Dunn team and granted our client’s motion.

Jessica Brown led the briefing team, which included Zoë Gray Klein, Dan Nowicki, and Wesley Sze. Additional assistance with research and drafting was provided by Chelsea Glover, Lauren Kole, Josh Rosario, and Rachel Wade. In light of our success before the BIA, our client asked Gibson Dunn to continue representing him in his subsequent immigration court proceedings. Jessica Brown will continue to supervise the matter, with a new LA-based team (comprising of Linda Lam, Matthew Parrott, and Jason Kim) leading the effort.

In May 2016, the California Supreme Court granted review in Bianka M. v. Superior Court, the case of a Honduran teenager who had sought to be placed in her mother’s sole custody to obtain relief from abandonment by her alleged father. The superior court denied Bianka’s request, along with her petition for special immigrant juvenile (“SIJ”) findings, which would have qualified her to petition the federal government for SIJ status and—eventually—lawful permanent resident status. Erroneously affirming, the Court of Appeal compounded the lower court’s error by arrogating to California courts the power to make immigration-dispositive determinations squarely within the sole jurisdiction of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (“ILRC”) filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner, arguing that federal law preempted the Court of Appeal’s opinion, which had trampled the Legislature-codified jurisdiction of California’s superior courts to adjudicate SIJ cases and provide juveniles with a pathway to seek permanent relief from abuse, neglect, and abandonment. ILRC was represented by Los Angeles associate Eric Westlund and San Francisco associate Dan Bruggebrew, with supervision from Julian Poon.

On April 18, 2017, Audrey Tan and Corey Singer successfully obtained asylum for a teenage girl who fled from Guatemala in February 2015. When she was 14 years old, she was sexually assaulted by her uncle’s friend; the man regularly stalked her at school and at church after the incident. At home, she experienced daily emotional and physical abuse from her aunt and uncle, who often threatened to kick her out of the home. Now in the United States, she has significantly improved her situation. The young woman has been reunited with her mother and father and is excelling in school. She sought therapy and learned ways to manage her trauma. The asylum interviewer agreed that asylum was appropriate in her case because she was a minor Guatemalan female with no parental or adult protection from sexual assault or other forms of physical violence.

On March 7, 2017, our pro bono client T.W.’s affirmative asylum application was granted. T.W. was referred to the firm by Immigration Equality. He is a gay man from Ethiopia who suffered persecution and imprisonment at the hands of the Ethiopian police after he was caught kissing his boyfriend goodnight. T.W.’s asylum application was filed in May 2015, and he was interviewed by an asylum officer on February 21, 2017. Michael Farhang, Ross Halper, Dione Garlick, and Christina Yang represented him in these proceedings.

On April 21, USCIS granted our client B.Z. (age 17) asylum in the US. B.Z. had faced persecution from the MS-13 gang, who had tried to kill him on multiple occasions because of his refusal to join the gang. Gibson Dunn submitted his application at the end of January 2017, received an interview notice for the end of March 2017, and received a positive decision by April 2017. Josh Jessen, Chris Whittaker, and Casper Yen all worked on the matter.

Gibson Dunn recently secured special immigrant juvenile status (“SIJS”) for its client, C.A. C.A. came to Gibson Dunn through a referral from KIND in late 2015 after travelling here to the U.S. from El Salvador, where his father had recently been killed by gangs. In his home country, he was also threatened by gangs. Over the course of several months, Gibson Dunn attorneys helped prepare C.A.’s SIJS application by interviewing C.A. and his family, appearing in Immigration Court and Los Angeles Superior Court, working with an outside attorney to serve as his guardian ad litem, and briefing the matter for consideration by USCIS. After over a year of hard work, USCIS granted C.A.’s request for SIJS on March 9, 2017. The Gibson Dunn team included Los Angeles associates Sheldon Evans and Katherine McClain, with supervision from partner Kahn Scolnick. The attorneys received invaluable help from Gibson Dunn assistant Ramona Gonzales, who provided translation services.

Pro Bono Partnering with our Clients 

Gibson Dunn is proud to partner with many of our clients working to provide immigrants with access to pro bono legal assistance, thereby assuring access to the justice system for a large, vulnerable segment of our community. These partnerships have taken many different forms, but often involve setting up full-day or half-day pro bono clinics where we work side-by-side to provide advice and counsel to low income immigrants seeking advice on matters ranging from asylum to DACA applications. We would love to invite any of our clients to join us in these efforts! If you are interested in learning more about these partnership opportunities, please contact Katie Marquart, Pro Bono Counsel & Director at (212) 351-5261;