Susan M. Finegan, Jamison B. Arterton, and John B. Koss, attorneys at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., and Amarynth Sichel, a Project Analyst at the firm, will receive the 2013 “Outstanding Achievement” award from the Political/Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project at the organization’s annual gala on June 19. The Mintz Levin team will be recognized for their work on a political asylum victory for a Guatemalan massacre survivor.
In 1982, members of the Kaibiles, an elite Guatemalan military branch, massacred over 200 men, women and children of Mayan descent. A Guatemalan nonprofit human rights group, working with Guatemalan and American prosecutors on the case, discovered that members of the Kaibiles kidnapped at least two Mayan children during the massacre. The nonprofit group identified Oscar, a 32-year-old man living in Framingham, Massachusetts with his wife and children, as one of the kidnapped children. DNA tests confirmed that Oscar was not the son of a former Kaibile leader, but rather the son of a former resident of the Mayan village.
The DNA evidence and Oscar’s testimony are key elements of cases being prosecuted in Guatemala and Spain against senior members of the military, including the current president of Guatemala. As a result, Oscar would have been in great danger if he were forced to return to Guatemala. In partnership with a pro bono attorney in New York, Ms. Finegan, Ms. Arterton, Mr. Koss and Ms. Sichel filed an asylum petition on Oscar’s behalf. In September of 2012, he and his wife were granted political asylum.
“We are honored to present this year’s ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award to the attorneys from Mintz Levin,” said Sarah Ignatius, Executive Director of the PAIR Project. “It is a miracle that Oscar is alive. Even so, dealing with the immigration system is vastly complex. Sue, Jamie, John and Amarynth put forth a tremendous effort, navigating complicated legal and procedural obstacles, to achieve this important victory for Oscar and his family.”
“Our team is thrilled to be recognized by PAIR for our work on this case,” added Ms. Finegan, a Member of Mintz Levin’s Litigation Section and Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. “It was an honor to work with Oscar and we are delighted that we were able to help him gain asylum.”
The PAIR Project is a nationally recognized pro bono model that works to secure safety and freedom for asylum-seekers who have fled from persecution throughout the world and to promote the rights of immigrants unjustly detained. The organization is the premier provider of pro bono legal services to asylum-seekers in Massachusetts.