The Vasquez Family

August 31, 2021

The following story was shared by IILA Managing Attorney, Edita Ghushchyan. Names and other identifying information have been changed to protect the family’s identity.

I am writing to share some good news, albeit in a very sad story.

In 2019, IILA agreed to represent the Vasquez family in their removal proceedings.

The family of 4 from Honduras entered the United States in October 2019. While still detained, their youngest son Diego was hospitalized and diagnosed with leukemia. Until August of 2020, Diego’s parents took turns being with him at the hospital. They did everything possible to bring him joy and comfort in a room full of IV fluids, needles, and medications. For almost a year, the parents had to witness their son weak in bed attached to hospital equipment with no prognosis of getting better. However, even that horrifying year of constant despair did not prepare the family for the pain and suffering that followed after Diego’s untimely passing in August 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the family’s struggle. It added to their exhaustion and depression. It made earning a livelihood much more difficult due to shutdowns across most industries. Their daughter Olivia, who had been in the United States for just 6 months and was witnessing her brother’s illness, had to attend school remotely, making it incredibly difficult to adjust and do well in school.

All along, the removal proceedings continued. From the start, we knew that the family’s asylum case was a weak one, but we were determined to help the Vasquez family throughout this process regardless of what we thought the outcome of the case would be. In May of 2021, prosecutorial discretion became an option. The family asked us to request one despite knowing that this meant they would remain undocumented in the United States. Both parents expressed that they feared being forced to abandon Diego’s gravesite here in the United States.

We put together a packet requesting prosecutorial discretion, knowing that the chances of it being granted were low since the family was a recent arrival and did not have extensive familial connections in the United States. Our team was stunned to receive the Department of Homeland Security’s consent to dismiss their removal proceedings. On the morning of August 31, the Immigration Judge formally granted the request, officially dismissing the family’s removal case.

This case was full of heartache. Even this celebrated outcome is heartbreaking because, while the government will stop prosecuting the family, they will remain undocumented in the United States.

Nonetheless, the Vasquez family is grateful for the opportunity to remain in the United States. Their heart is at peace knowing that they can continue visiting Diego’s gravesite.