HELP ENGLISH-SPEAKING MAN WHO ENDURED THE WORST AND WITNESSED A MURDER AVOID DEPORTATION (Laurent)

Laurent* is a 29-year-old man from Haiti who entered the U.S. with a green card. He has two U.S. citizen children (ages 3 and 5). Laurent grew up in an abusive household surrounded by death and gang violence. He was raped by a neighbor when he was 8 years old and watched his stepfather murder someone when he was 12. Laurent was placed in deportation proceedings after being charged with identity theft and credit card fraud, and an immigration judge sitting in Pennsylvania denied his defenses and ordered him deported. Laurent needs a pro bono attorney to represent him in a motion to reopen (MTR) his deportation proceedings. Based on the recent change of circumstances in Haiti and ineffective assistance of prior counsel in Pennsylvania, Laurent has a viable claim to reopen his case.  

 

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.     

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Laurent* is a 29-year-old man from Haiti who entered the U.S. with a green card.  He lived in Haiti with his mother and his stepfather, who was physically abusive. When Laurent was 8 years old, a male neighbor came to the house when his mother wasn’t home and raped him. Laurent told his mother what happened, but she didn’t believe him. Due to the abuse, Laurent experienced homelessness as a child for a period of time.    

Laurent is afraid to return to Haiti because he witnessed his stepfather, Paul*, who is a known drug dealer and gang member in the area, murder his (Paul's) friend. When Laurent’s stepfather heard about what Laurent had witnessed, he pinned Laurent to the ground, tied him up, beat him, and told him he would “cut his tongue out and burn him alive.” Laurent was able to escape, and ultimately identified his stepfather as the shooter when he was questioned by the police. His stepfather was incarcerated but eventually was released while Laurent was in the U.S. After his release, Paul attempted to hunt down Laurent. When he couldn’t find Laurent, he shot Laurent’s biological father in front of Laurent’s godmother in an attempt to lure Laurent back to Haiti for the funeral, so he could kill him.  

Laurent is also afraid to return to Haiti because he witnessed four men in his community being beaten and then burned to death because they were gay. Although Laurent is not sure how he specifically identifies, he has been in a relationship with a man. 

While Laurent was detained and in deportation proceedings, he hired a private attorney who failed to adequately represent him. This attorney ignored Laurent’s calls and did not prepare him for his immigration court hearings. Laurent was unable to share details of the danger his stepfather posed to him or of his mental health ailments at his hearings because his attorney would not communicate with him.   

To help Laurent, a pro bono attorney will submit a motion to reopen, along with supporting affidavits or other evidence, stating the new facts that will be proven at a hearing if the motion is granted. An immigration judge sitting in Pennsylvania ordered Laurent deported in November of 2020, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed his appeal, so the motion to reopen will be filed at the BIA. Motions to reopen are decided entirely on the papers. Because the original immigration court proceedings were in Pennsylvania, Third Circuit law will apply to the motion to reopen. 

Since Laurent’s deportation order became final, TPS for Haiti was renewed for 18 months, the Haitian president was murdered, and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed over 2,200 people. Laurent’s pro bono attorney should include relevant country conditions that display the distinct changes that have occurred in the country to show the need for a Motion to Reopen based on changed circumstances.  

In addition to changed circumstances, Laurent also has a viable claim under Matter of Melgar and Matter of Lozada for a motion to reopen his proceedings based on the ineffective assistance of his prior counsel. Prior counsel, who is an attorney based in Philadelphia, will need to be informed of his ineffective assistance and the intention to bring an ineffective assistance claim.

The motion to reopen should take no longer than three months to prepare once a retainer with counsel is signed.   

  • Timeline: Laurent does not have any hearings scheduled currently. 

  • Location: Caroline County, VA (detained) 

  • Language: English, Haitian Creole 

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

*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy