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Survivor of the Dos Erres Massacre in Guatemala Granted Political Asylum

9.19.2012

New York - Óscar Ramírez Castañeda was granted political asylum in the United States on September 19, 2012. Óscar only very recently learned he one of a few survivors of the infamous Dos Erres massacre in Guatemala, having been kidnapped in December 1982 as a 3-year-old boy by one of the Guatemalan soldiers who murdered his mother and eight siblings, along with over 250 people in their village. Óscar's wife, Nidia, was also granted asylum. Their four young children are already U.S. citizens.

Since October 2011, Wiggin and Dana litigation lawyers Scott Greathead and Laura Chubb have been representing Óscar Ramírez, a 32-year-old Guatemalan living in Framingham, MA, on an application for political asylum in the U.S. With a team of pro bono lawyers from the Boston office of Mintz Levin, they prepared and last December submitted an asylum application on Óscar's behalf to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.) Asylum Office of the Department of Homeland Security. Óscar's asylum interview took place in June in the Boston office of U.S.C.I.S.

Last August, it was established by a DNA test conducted by another of our pro bono clients, the Guatemala-based Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG), that Óscar Ramírez is the biological son of Tranquilino Castañeda Valenzuela, a resident of Dos Erres who was away at the time of the massacre working in the fields of a relative. Until last August, Don Tranquilino believed his wife and all nine of his children, including Óscar, were murdered by the Guatemalan army in the massacre. On May 28, after 30 years, Óscar was reunited with his father, and for the first time, Don Tranquilinio met his four young grandchildren and Óscar's wife, Nidia.

"Óscar's story is one of the most remarkable and compelling that I have encountered in 30 years of representing political asylum applicants" said Wiggin and Dana Partner Scott Greathead.

On May 25th, the story of the Dos Erres massacre and how Óscar Ramírez was discovered and reunited with his father was the subject of a one-hour broadcast on the NPR program This American Life. For details, go to the This American Life website at www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/465/what-happened-at-dos-erres.

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