San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, (628) 249-7946,

Sean Lai McMahon, Pangea Legal Services, (415) 471-0754


SF Public Defender and Pangea Legal Services File Emergency Motion to Stop Deportation of a Young Father Who Faces Extreme Danger in El Salvador 

SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, attorneys from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and Pangea Legal Services filed an Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order with the Federal District Court asking for judicial intervention to stop the imminent deportation of a young father from El Salvador, Willian, who learned that ICE was preparing to deport him as early as May 26. Despite the fact that Willian has a motion to reopen his immigration case which has not yet been heard in court, the Board of Immigration Appeals did not contest ICE’s plan to deport him, which is what prompted attorneys to file for an emergency injunction to prevent it.

“I am a dead man if I am deported,” says Willian, “I am asking that the court think of me, and my children, before they make their decision.”

Courtesy photo of Willian.

Willian, 24, is a survivor of torture in El Salvador who, as a youth, was trapped between violent gangs and abusive police. He fled his country and found refuge in the United States at the age of 16 years old. He found employment, fell in love, and became a father, and his children are U.S. citizens However, just after turning 18 years old, he was falsely accused of a crime, and like many working class people throughout the country, pled guilty – without knowing the immigration consequences – so he could get out of jail. 

Immigration authorities arrested him in November 2018, and he has been fighting his civil immigration case while in ICE custody ever since. In February 2021, while detained and after he had already been given a deportation order, he received a terrifying and credible death threat from a gang in El Salvador, threatening to kill him. At the same time, conditions in El Salvador are deteriorating, as the new President, Nayib Bukele, is moving toward authoritarianism and empowering the gangs, leading to an increasing culture of lawlessness and impunity. 

Immigrants have a right to file a motion to reopen their immigration case with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) when there is new evidence that they can be harmed in their country of origin. Even though Willian filed a motion to reopen, ICE is still trying to deport him before his motion can be decided. In a four sentence decision, the BIA denied Willian’s request to stop his deportation despite the fact that a judge has not yet reviewed his claim.

Willian and his supporters are calling on the federal court to intervene and stop his deportation until his motion to reopen can be decided. 

Willian’s attorney Francisco Ugarte, lead attorney at the Immigration Defense Unit of the San Francisco Public Defender, states: “The Board of Immigration Appeals has become a broken institution intent on stripping rights from immigrants, promoting deportation, and undermining the rule of law. Judicial intervention by the federal court is now the only way to stop Willian’s deportation, and provide a check and balance to ICE’s and the BIA’s overreach.” 

Sean Lai McMahon, immigration attorney and co-director at Pangea Legal Services, states: “Willian has new evidence of his fear of persecution and torture in El Salvador, and has had no chance to have this evidence considered. He has the right to have his motion adjudicated, and not to be deported under cover of darkness while his motion is pending. ICE is risking deporting an individual to death.”

“This is unfair,” said Diana, Willian’s longtime partner and mother of his children. “We feel so sad because we have two children who always ask me when daddy is coming home, and I don’t have an answer because my heart is broken. I hope the judge sees him as the good man he is, we miss him and want him home.”

“Deporting victims and those directly impacted by violence in their countries of origin, while separating them from their children and families, is a human rights violation in itself,” says Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). “CARECEN will continue our work of advancing justice and Due Process for our people in this country and in our countries of origin.”

“Time and time again, we see the deportation system crush people, particularly young Central Americans. He simply wants fairness and an opportunity to be heard, and when you look at the particularities of his case, he is being denied both,” said Mano Raju, Public Defender of San Francisco.




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