Mateo* is a 27-year-old man from El Salvador. Mateo fled to the United States to escape threats from gang members in his home country. Though Mateo himself was never involved with the local gangs, his father’s actions put him in the gang’s crosshairs. Gang members also attempted to force Mateo to collect extortion money for them and threatened to harm him and his grandmother if he refused. Mateo fears that if he is deported, he will be killed by the gangs. Mateo is eligible for asylum on his family ties and his anti-gang political opinion. Mateo needs a pro bono attorney to represent him in his asylum hearing, which is currently scheduled for December 16. CAIR Coalition will help an interested attorney seek a continuance for trial preparation as a prerequisite to representation.   


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.  



Mateo* is a 27-year-old man from El Salvador who was forced to flee to the United States after his father’s actions made him the target of a violent local gang. Mateo’s father had an affair with the mother of a family who was well connected to the gangs. Upon observing that the woman he was having an affair with was also sleeping with someone else, Mateo’s father brutally murdered her with a machete. Maria's family wanted revenge for her killing, but they could not retaliate directly against Mateo’s father because he was imprisoned for the murder. So they instead turned their attention towards Mateo and vowed to kill him as retribution.  


Even before this incident, Mateo’s life was painful. When Mateo was 13 years old, his father hit him in the head with a cement construction block, sending him to the hospital and causing him permanent brain damage. Combined with a fall he had later in his childhood, Mateo now suffers memory lapses and headaches, for which he takes medication.  


Before coming to the U.S., Mateo also received numerous death threats from a local gang that was trying to force him to collect extortion payments for them. The gang threatened to harm him and his grandmother if he refused. Mateo did refuse, and the gang began patrolling outside his house. Mateo was unable to leave his house alone and would only leave in order to pick up essential items like his medication. Finally, Mateo fled to the U.S. to escape the gang. 


Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Mateo filed an application for asylum, which has not been adjudicated. Following alcohol-related convictions, the government has placed Mateo in deportation proceedings.  


Special Considerations: Mateo had a private attorney who helped him submit an asylum application five years ago. When he was transferred to ICE custody from criminal custody, he had an attorney represent him on bond. His request for bond was denied because of a DUI charge. Mateo is no longer represented by counsel. CAIR Coalition is diligently trying to get the documents from his prior hearings, but a pro bono attorney may need to request an expedited file review. Also, because of his severe head trauma. a pro bono team should consider obtaining a psychological evaluation and filing a motion for safeguards for Mateo under Matter of M-A-M-. 


  • Timeline: Mateo has an individual hearing scheduled for December 16th. CAIR Coalition will help an interested attorney seek a continuance for trial preparation a prerequisite to representation.  

  • Location:  Caroline County, Virginia (Detained)  

  • Language: Spanish - will need a fluent Spanish-speaking pro bono team member or an outside interpreter/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