BakerHostetler Pro Bono Team Wins Precedential Ruling on Immigration Rights

News / August 27, 2020

BakerHostetler Partner Aaron Rabinowitz and Of Counsel Gary Levin recently won a unanimous precedential immigration decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They provide pro bono representation to a Honduran man who was beaten and threatened after protesting the Honduran government. He fled to the United States but was denied asylum by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and was then jailed in York, Penn., pending deportation.

Rabinowitz filed the Third Circuit appeal and secured a stay from the court to suspend deportation proceedings. Then, he and Levin convinced the Third Circuit judges that the BIA had made legal errors when it declared that the man’s abduction, beating, and months of threats did not meet the threshold for asylum of requiring permanent physical damage.

The Third Circuit’s three judges ruled on July 24, 2020, that the BIA had misapplied precedent, and confirmed that the BakerHostetler attorneys’ interpretation of the law was correct. The unanimous decision also reiterated that persecution does not require a showing of permanent physical harm and vacated the BIA’s earlier decision.

“The new law confirms that if you’re seeking relief or asylum, you don’t have to prove that you were permanently physically harmed. What you need to show is not as onerous as it once was,” said Rabinowitz. “The court understood that just because someone did not suffer broken bones or other permanent physical harm, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t persecuted.”

Rabinowitz and Levin are patent attorneys in the BakerHostetler’s Philadelphia office and they received the case – their first immigration matter – through the nonprofit Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., which provides pro bono services to immigrants. The BakerHostetler team also included Associate Jeff Lyons and Paralegal Chanell Surratt.