Julio is a 40-year-old man who came to the U.S. almost 20 years ago to escape persecution from gang members and police in El Salvador. Following a misdemeanor conviction, Julio was placed in deportation proceedings. He proceeded pro se and asserted fear-based defenses to deportation. An immigration judge has twice denied him relief, but Julio and pro bono appellate counsel won remand at the Board of Immigration Appeals each time. In the most recent appellate decision, the Board pointed to new Fourth Circuit precedent that the immigration judge must apply on remand. Julio now has a fresh opportunity to seek relief from deportation and needs an attorney to help him fully develop the record and argue his case before the immigration court.


All CAIR Coalition matters placed with a pro bono team are robustly mentored by a CAIR Coalition attorney.  Our mentoring program includes an opening meeting to discuss the scope and process of the matter, provision of samples, guidance on the law, review of draft filings, assistance with client contact, and guidance on preparation for interviews and hearings.    




Julio is a 40-year-old man from El Salvador. When Julio was 20 years old, the local gang that ruled his neighborhood imposed a new “law,” requiring everyone to get a gang-related tattoo. Because this gang believed that their neighborhood was being invaded by members of a rival gang, they claimed that anyone who wouldn’t get the tattoo would be considered a member of the rival gang and killed. To protect himself, Julio submitted to the gang tattoo. Although Julio socialized with members of the gang, he maintains that he never took part in any of their gang-related activities. Gang members noticed his lack of involvement and began threatening him.


Julio’s connection to the gang and his tattoo also led to his being harassed and beaten by the Salvadoran police on many occasions. One of those beatings was so severe that Julio was hospitalized and one of his testicles had to be surgically removed.


To escape the gang threats and the police violence, Julio fled to the U.S. almost 20 years ago. Even after Julio arrived in the U.S., he continued to receive threats from the gang. The gang has said that if he returns to El Salvador, they will kill him on sight. Julio’s mother and brother, who are still in El Salvador, also receive threats from the gang, asking about Julio.  


Following relatively minor criminal charges and a misdemeanor conviction, Julio was placed in deportation proceedings. He proceeded pro se and asserted fear-based defenses to deportation related to his status as a former gang member with a tattoo who left the gang. The immigration judge denied him relief and referred to his “minimal credibility” in her oral decision.  



Julio appealed this decision with the assistance of pro bono counsel, and the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded for the immigration judge to clarify this “minimal credibility” statement. On remand, the immigration judge ultimately found that he was credible but again denied him relief from deportation.


Julio and his pro bono appellate counsel appealed again and won another remand. The Board’s second decision specifically pointed out the failure of the immigration judge to fully develop the record in Julio’s pro se proceeding, as required by the recent Fourth Circuit decision Quintero v. Garland. There have also been recent developments in Fourth Circuit precedent on asylum eligibility based on former gang membership. Together, these case law developments give Julio another chance to fight his deportation. What he needs now is a pro bono attorney to fight alongside him on remand and build a stronger case for protection from deportation than he had a chance to when he proceeded without counsel.


  • Timeline: Julio does not have any hearings scheduled currently.
  • Location: Caroline County, VA  (detained) 
  • Language: Spanish - will need a Spanish-speaking pro bono team member or a translator.

For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at or 202-866-9287.    

*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy