In May 2020, two of our pro bono attorneys, Imani and Anjelica, began representing a family of four from Venezuela, under the supervision of VECINA’s Virginia Raymond. The older child has a kidney issue that requires continued medical attention. The family tried to raise this issue with the court twice in January and February when they appeared pro-se. However, both times they were returned to Mexico to unsafe housing, lack of medical attention, and the inability to provide their child with a healthy diet to keep her kidneys stable.

Our pro bonos took the case through VECINA’s collaboration with Al Otro Lado. The family’s hearing was originally scheduled for June 15 but was pushed to August 26 due to COVID. While working on the case, the attorneys became aware of these medical issues, and that things were getting worse. Additionally, if the child contracted COVID, it could be deadly due to her kidney issue. The team decided they would apply for Humanitarian Parole for the family even though they were aware it was unlikely to be granted.

The attorneys worked tirelessly. Along with evidence of the medical condition, the team compiled letters from the family and the sponsors in Florida, and wrote their own letter to CBP arguing that the family should have never been placed in MPP in the first place once the medical issue was raised. They reminded CBP of its guiding principles and hoped that the officers would realize the urgency of the situation. The team urged CBP to parole in the entire family because their asylum cases are intertwined, and family separation goes against the public interest.

The lawyers submitted the letter and supporting evidence on July 16, and sent follow up emails. The team received a call from CBP on July 21, late in the evening, with exciting news. The family was to be paroled in together the next day, July 22. With the help of Diego from Al Otro Lado, the family was quickly paroled in. Jewish Family Service coordinated the effort to pick up the family and bring them to a hotel where they will be quarantined for two weeks as a precaution before moving to Orlando to be with their family.

We are so proud of our pro bono attorneys and their VECINA mentor, Virginia Raymond. Also, huge shout outs to Al Otro Lado, our partner in this program, Diego from AOL for meeting the clients and accompanying them during their parole, and Jewish Family Services for taking the reigns once the family was in the United States. We don’t have a ton of happy stories these days, and are thrilled that our attorneys’ hard work made a huge difference in this family’s life!