Latania Mena took her on her first pro bono case with KIND and recently received notice that she won her first asylum grant for a 13-year-old boy from El Salvador. Latania was successful at helping Leon* through his immigration proceedings in Houston. Like so many of the vulnerable children who have come to the US seeking protection, Leon was fleeing for his life.
Leon’s father was physically abusive towards his mother and sister; he beat them until they were hospitalized. His mother tried to escape and hide with the children to other parts of El Salvador but his father always found them and continued these horrific beatings. Eventually his mother made the decision to flee for her life. Leon then became the target of his father’s beatings. Then the other threats began. Leon’s father and Leon began getting death threats from the local gang. When they found out the gang had put a death sentence out on them, they went into hiding, yet the threats kept coming. Leon feared for his life when he left his house. He decided to leave El Salvador when he was 12 years old and not tell his father. Leon fled all alone and made the difficult journey to the US to find his mother.
This is where KIND and Latania came in. Once with his mother in Houston, Leon was placed in deportation proceedings and expected to show up and defend his immigration court case before a judge who would decide if he would qualify for relief and get to stay in the US. KIND placed his case with Latania. Without Latania’s dedication to Leon, and the notion that all children deserve a fair chance to share their stories in court, the outcome could have been much different.
KIND got to talk with Latania about her experience working with Leon in the video above. As Latania states, “The reality that they can’t do much by themselves, without us they aren’t able to navigate through that system and get the relief they need. They would simply go back to that place of harm that they fled in the first place.”
*Child’s name and certain details have been changed to protect their identify