Case Study
February 7, 2018

Freedom Fighters

Goodwin litigators recently secured the release of Francisco Rodriguez-Guardado, a longtime MIT custodian, father of four, and pillar of his community, who had been held in government custody since July pending his deportation to El Salvador.


Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado originally entered the United States in 2006, fleeing gang violence in El Salvador. Although the immigration courts denied Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado asylum, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – recognizing his lack of criminal record and contributions to the community – had allowed him to remain in the United States for over ten years. Everything changed last July, however, when ICE took Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado into custody with plans to remove him to El Salvador a week later. ICE’s decision received extensive media attention, and Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado and his family, including his four U.S. citizen children, received an outpouring of support from the community.


Goodwin assembled a team of federal court litigators who immediately sprang into action by filing emergency papers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s immediate release. Meanwhile, a motion to reopen asylum proceedings – filed by Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s prior counsel – was pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Goodwin secured a temporary order from the district court prohibiting Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s transfer from Massachusetts and the BIA granted a stay of removal pending its decision on the motion to reopen. These orders prevented Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s removal from the country, yet he remained in jail. Both stays were subsequently dissolved when the district court denied the emergency application and the BIA denied the motion to reopen.

The Goodwin team then appealed both the district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and the BIA decision to the Tenth Circuit. Just before Thanksgiving, while these two appeals were pending, ICE again made clear that it planned to remove Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado to El Salvador within several days. Upon learning this news, Goodwin immediately filed emergency motions in both Circuits seeking to block Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s deportation. In a crucial victory, the Tenth Circuit granted Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado a permanent stay of removal pending resolution of his appeal in that Court. The Tenth Circuit explained that this relief is rarely granted, but emphasized that Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado has a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his appeal.


The Goodwin team then returned to the First Circuit and filed an emergency motion seeking Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s immediate release from custody. Goodwin argued that the Tenth Circuit’s decision granting a stay pending appeal meant that Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado’s removal from the country was no longer imminent and there was no longer any need to keep him in jail. Rather than oppose this motion, the Government agreed to release Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado from custody on December 21, 2017. Goodwin litigators were there to greet Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado upon his release, and also attended a press conference the following day featuring Mr. Rodriguez-Guardado, members of his union, leaders of community groups, and a representative from MIT.