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University of Houston Law Clinic Secures CAT Victory for Salvadoran Tattoo Artist After Decade-Long Legal Battle

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University of Houston of Law Center Immigration Clinic clients left with Senior Clinical Supervisor Vanessa Lopez and Immigration Clinic student Anusha DeSilva Bradley right.

Dec. 12, 2023 — University of Houston of Law Center Immigration Clinic Senior Clinical Supervisor Vanessa Lopez and Immigration Clinic student Anusha DeSilva Bradley won a withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) for their client, a tattoo artist from El Salvador.

“Getting protection under CAT is extremely difficult in Texas,” said Anna Cabot, University of Houston Law Center Clinical Associate Professor and Immigration Clinic Director. “This is a significant victory for the Clinic and the client after a decade-long legal battle.”

The client who had numerous visible tattoos was falsely marked as a gang member in El Salvador and was stopped nearly every time he left his house, suffering repeated and violent encounters with the El Salvadoran police and military because of his tattoos.

“He was afraid for his life, and after the El Salvadoran police threatened and laughed at him, he fled. Once in the United States, he was immediately placed in removal proceedings,” Lopez said.

The legal process started in 2013, the client won CAT protection while representing himself at the York Detention Facility in Pennsylvania, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appealed. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) remanded for more fact-finding, and with representation, the client won CAT protection again.

However, DHS appealed again, and the BIA again remanded the case to the Immigration Judge. In this most recent hearing, Lopez and Bradley presented a strong case, resulting in the judge granting CAT protection and DHS waiving the appeal.

“This final CAT grant gives the client the stability he needs to move forward with life and ends a decade of what-ifs,” Lopez said.

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