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Paul, Weiss is committed to providing impactful pro bono legal assistance to individuals and organizations in need. Our program is all-encompassing, spanning the core issues facing our society.

Mayan Human Rights Activist and Genocide Survivor Secures Asylum

Paul, Weiss achieved a remarkable victory on behalf of a pro bono client, an indigenous human rights activist from Guatemala, successfully securing asylum out of the El Paso Immigration Court—one of the most notoriously anti-immigrant jurisdictions in the country, with an asylum grant rate well below the national average. We took the case on an expedited basis after our client’s former pro bono counsel fell ill with cancer and had to withdraw. Within a matter of months, the team documented the harrowing story of our client’s past persecution, where, at the tender age of 6, he witnessed the Guatemalan military perpetrate a massacre against his Ixil Maya community, gunning down countless neighbors and executing his father before his eyes. Our client and his then-3-year-old sister were abducted by the military, held in a military internment camp for six months, and separated from their mother for six years.

Years later, our client channeled his traumatic experience into activism, becoming a key advocate for accountability for the genocide perpetrated against his Mayan community. He founded a leading organization seeking transitional justice, testified at the genocide trial of former dictator General Rios Montt, and was featured in two documentaries about the genocide. His efforts to bear witness to the genocide of his people continues to this day.

Based on the comprehensive record the team developed, including three expert reports, corroborating documentary evidence and hundreds of pages of country conditions reports, counsel for the Department of Homeland Security agreed to not contest our case, to forego questioning of the witnesses, and to waive any appeal. In a hearing, the Immigration Judge briefly questioned our client, found him credible, and exercised his discretion to grant asylum.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation associates Jake Philipoom, Alyssa Kurke, Patrick Lim and Arpine Lawyer, with Jake and Alyssa traveling to El Paso to attend the hearing. The team was supervised by partner Lina Dagnew and pro bono attorney Tanaz Moghadam.

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