Press Release

Ballard Spahr Secures Asylum for Persecuted Cuban Journalist

October 15, 2018

A team of Ballard Spahr lawyers, led by William Alden McDaniel, Jr., has successfully secured political asylum for pro bono client Serafín Morán Santiago, a Cuban journalist and human rights advocate. He was granted asylum in the United States on October 11, 2018.

While living in his home country, Mr. Morán Santiago reported extensively on human rights abuses, persecution of political dissidents, and government corruption. The government repeatedly detained and tortured Mr. Morán Santiago. He survived beatings, stabbings, and gunshot wounds.

In 2017, government agents kidnapped Mr. Morán Santiago and sent him to Guyana, where he continued to report on the Cuban regime’s abuses. After Cuban agents pursued him in Guyana and later Mexico, Mr. Morán Santiago sought political asylum in the United States. He arrived in the United States in April 2018 and was held in the South Texas Detention center in Pearsall, Texas.

Mr. McDaniel, a Partner in Ballard Spahr's Baltimore office, led the efforts to secure political asylum for Mr. Morán Santiago. His legal team, which included Associates Anu Susan Thomas and Maraya N. Pratt, filed extensive pre-submission materials and traveled to Pearsall several times to meet with Mr. Morán Santiago. Their legal efforts were supported by media outlets including CubaNet, HispanoPost, Fundamedios, and non-profit organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists, and American Gateways.

"Many people talk about liberty. Mr. Moran Santiago repeatedly risked his life to help secure liberty for his fellow Cubans," said Mr. McDaniel. "It was an honor to represent him."

Ballard Spahr litigators have a history of defending persecuted journalists pro bono. Earlier this year, a team of First Amendment litigators represented the National Press Club and other media organizations in the fight to free Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son, who were both released from federal detention on July 26, 2018.

As a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, originally established by the American Bar Association and now administered by the Pro Bono Institute, Ballard Spahr has annually made and met a commitment to donate at least 3 percent of its billable hours to pro bono service—more than 43,000 hours this past year. The firm consistently ranks among the top 100 law firms in the Am Law Pro Bono Report and has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of its outstanding commitment to pro bono work.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Ballard Spahr’s formal pro bono program, which recently won the ABA's Pro Bono Publico Award. The firm was one of the first in the country to create a full-time pro bono counsel position and apply the practice group model to pro bono services. Since the inception of its program, Ballard Spahr lawyers have contributed more than half a million hours of pro bono work to individuals, organizations, and causes.

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