Immigration Attorney Fights for Victims’ Rights

By Stacey Bomser

Attorney Elizabeth Blandon has committed her career to helping victims of abuse, both political and domestic, make a life for themselves in the United States. It’s a calling that is near and dear to her heart, as she is the child of Cuban immigrants.

The longtime Weston resident says immigration law was a natural fit. “I wanted to help good people, like my parents, who wished to make the United States the home not of their birth, but of their choice. Immigration law impacts people’s lives forever.”

One of those people was Marco Coello. As a student, Coello attended a political protest in Caracas, Venezuela. Even though he did not participate in any violence, he was arrested and tortured by authorities while in custody. Blandon says the abuse was so atrocious it was documented by Human Rights Watch. Facing certain death in his home country, Coello escaped to the United States and applied for political asylum.

“His case made international headlines, including the front page of The New York Times, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested him at the Miami Asylum Office instead of interviewing him,” explains Blandon. “It was heartbreaking to see this young man, with fear and panic in his eyes, as he was taken away to a detention facility. Knowing his history of being tortured while detained in Venezuela, I knew we had to move heaven and earth to get him freed as quickly as possible.”

Blandon and her team immediately started working on legal motions and contacting media, legislators and community leaders. Thanks to the public attention and their fast legal response, Coello is now free and no longer in deportation proceedings. Blandon says she looks forward to the day when she can stand by her client’s side during his asylum interview.

In addition to immigration law, Blandon dedicates much of her time to working with victims of domestic abuse. She says that is a real concern in immigrant communities.

“Abusers have an added level of control with immigrant women, often threatening to have them deported and telling them they will never see their children again,” explains Blandon. “These women feel trapped and hopeless, afraid to report abuse to authorities due to their immigration status. I can give them a lifeline to break free from the cycle of control and abuse.”

In addition to representing victims, Blandon trains advocates to work with survivors of domestic violence. She, and her staff, also volunteer with non-profit organizations such as Hispanic Unity to serve the immigrant community. Blandon Law also sponsors college scholarships for foreign-born students. “I want to make sure that immigrant students have the same opportunities that I was blessed to have,” she notes.

Blandon is the recipient of the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association’s Bravo! Award for leadership in public service and the Broward County Bar Association’s 2017 Section Chair Award for her numerous educational seminars and volunteer activities.

She is also active within the legal community. Blandon is Chair of both the Asylum Committee for the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Section of the Broward County Bar Association. She serves as Vice Chair for the Florida Bar Immigration Board-Certification Committee.