9 Focused on What Matters “Julio” was appointed by Colombia’s president to serve in its highest internal security position. With a mandate to act aggressively, Julio used his power to revoke the licenses of private security companies hired by drug-trafficking cartels to protect their operations. He pursued his mission with unprecedented vigor—shutting down the heavily armed fronts for two of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords—and soon began to receive threats from both the traffickers and corrupt government officials. “We’ll cut off your head,” promised one drug lord. “We know your wife’s schedule,” said another, “and we know where your son goes to school.” Convinced he’d be killed if he stayed, and frightened for the safety of his wife and young son, Julio fled with his family to the United States. In Boston, Mintz Levin attorrney Joel Bloom learned of Julio’s asylum application, and the firm assembled a team to partner with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) to help. With only a week to meet Julio’s filing deadline, attorneys Wynter Lavier and Manny Vazquez, working under the guidance of attorney Peter Biagetti, prepared Julio’s asylum application. “Julio spoke very little English,” notes Manny, who immigrated with his family from Mexico. Sharing his own experiences of starting over in the United States, all in Julio’s first language, helped Manny establish a rapport with Julio, and made it easier for Julio to share his terrifying story. “Julio faced a daunting burden of proof,” Peter recalls. “He had not been harmed or physically threatened, so his testimony had to bring to life, with detail that earned credibility, the verbal threats against him. His life was clearly in danger.” Attorney Jess Sergi helped Manny prepare the asylum package, including affidavits from Julio and his wife, a supporting legal brief, a pivotal report on violence and corruption in Colombia, and testimony from two experts—an investigative reporter and a former State Department official—establishing that Julio would likely be assassinated if he returned to Colombia. Michele Frangella, an immigration attorney, briefed the team on what to expect in court, and Legal Assistant Ken Nee helped assemble supporting documentation. Julio caught a break at the hearing, drawing the court’s most experienced judge, who had benefited from the team’s written submissions. Peter conducted the direct examination, and the judge actively inquired, but it was Julio who carried the day.Thanks to his careful preparation and his resolve to protect his family, Julio was pointed, poignant, and persuasive. The government attorney declined cross-examination, the judge ruled from the bench, and Julio’s family finally had a safe place to call home. Thank you kindly for all of your support and help. We are so happy to have the great opportunity to stay in the United States of America safely and with a better future for our little boy. God bless America! You all have saved our life! “Julio” (continued) Making the Case for Asylum A Reformer Escapes Drug Traffickers