Thanks to the special immigrant status obtained for him by a McGuireWoods pro bono trial team, a Honduran teen can sling on his backpack, hold his head high and feel safe as he attends a local high school in Burlington, N.C.
Abandoned at birth by his father, the boy lived with his grandmother and uncle in Honduras while his mother worked in the United States to support them financially. Members of a violent gang began threatening the boy and robbed him, and they murdered the uncle with whom he lived. Hoping for a better life and to be reunited with his mother, the boy hitchhiked, swam through rivers and walked for more than two weeks to reach the U.S. border.
Since he was a minor, the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency took custody of him and contacted his mother. They soon were reunited.
Charlotte senior counsel Angie Zimmern and associate Carlo Rodes helped the mother obtain custody of him through Legal Aid of Mecklenburg County’s Safe Child Immigrant Project, which helps child refugees obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status after fleeing violence.
“I took this case because I’m drawn to children’s advocacy issues,” said Zimmern. “I want refugee children who are fleeing violence to get the same chance to flourish as children in the United States.”
As of January 2016, McGuireWoods’ Charlotte office had trained more than 17 attorneys who volunteered to help with the Safe Child Immigrant Project. They’ve taken on 18 pro bono cases — more than any other firm in Charlotte — and this was the first that went to trial.