December 15, 2020

Munger, Tolles & Olson Achieves Green Card Victory on Behalf of Teenage Refugee

In 2015, 16-year-old Graciela* fled from years of violent abuse in her home in Guatemala. With no family to turn to in Guatemala, she decided to make the notoriously dangerous overland journey to the United States to seek refuge and reunite with her mother, who was living in Los Angeles and working to support the family in Guatemala.

By the time the Munger Tolles team met Graciela, a private immigration attorney had already collected thousands of dollars to file a largely pro forma asylum application that was denied in short order. Fearing she was out of options, Graciela turned to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the leading national organization advocating for the rights of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in the U.S., which referred her to Munger, Tolles & Olson to take on the case.

With Graciela’s removal proceeding just weeks away, the Munger Tolles team swung into action, determining that she might be eligible for relief as a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJS), and persuading the immigration court to hold off further proceedings while they pursued that relief.  The team then went to work gathering evidence to support Graciela’s SIJS claim and serving required legal papers in the United States and in Guatemala. 

In summer 2016, the Munger Tolles team obtained a “predicate order” in Los Angeles Superior Court that was used as a basis to apply for SIJS, and that application was ultimately granted by USCIS.  After more than four years of delays imposed by the U.S. immigration system, Graciela received her green card on Dec. 15, 2020.

The Munger, Tolles & Olson team that represented Graciela was led by Joseph D. Lee.

* Name changed for privacy.