Manuel fled from El Salvador to the U.S. as a teenager to escape the pervasive gangs.

In the U.S., Manuel worked full-time to support his partner, her children, and the rest of his family members.

In August 2017, Manuel was wrongfully convicted of gang-related offenses after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. ICE detained him immediately after his convictions and eventually transferred him away from his friends and family to Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.

Working with a legal team* of pro bono and Amica Center attorneys, Manuel sought asylum based on being wrongfully labeled as a gang member. He testified to the immigration judge (IJ) about not being a gang member and facing persecution in El Salvador if he returned.

The IJ found Manuel’s story credible and granted him asylum based on the predicament the U.S. government placed him in by wrongly accusing him of being a gang member. That same IJ later ordered him released on bond and he was able to continue working to support himself and his family. While released, he met his partner and had a child, whom he is raising.

After five years of his case moving between numerous rounds of immigration court and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Manuel appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which remanded his asylum case back to the BIA to reconsider its denial of relief.

While Manuel is no longer detained, the lack of closure in his case, even after being granted asylum twice, has taken an emotional toll on him and his family.

*Law firms Cooley LLP and Hogan Lovells; pro bono attorneys Charlie Wood, Elizabeth Stameshkin, Erich Veitenheimer, Georgina I., Emily Terrell, Elizabeth Meers, Michael Zubrow, and Kaitlin Welborn; and CAIR Coalition attorneys Adina Appelbaum, Esq., Kelly Rojas, and Samantha Hsieh represented Manuel.