For our clients, securing progress requires an exceptional degree of perseverance. The challenges they face are ones that most Americans will never have to fathom. Whenever a client reaches a major milestone, such as being admitted to college, we celebrate with tremendous pride because we understand the extraordinary efforts that our client invested to reach such accomplishment.

Growing up amidst El Salvador’s gang wars, impoverished, and without parents, Gerson did not imagine that he would one day be admitted to one of the world’s most prestigious universities. At a very young age, he was forced to become aware of the inequities of the world and the tremendous pain they brought upon innocent people. With this heavy wisdom, Gerson set out to the United States, determined to fulfill his destiny.

He traversed thousands of miles, evading violence, enduring hunger and exhaustion from the arduous journey. In 2017, he arrived at the U.S. – Mexico border in Tijuana where he presented himself to ICE. He was promptly locked away in one of ICE’s notoriously inhumane holding facilities.

Gerson stands with Executive Director, Lindsay Toczylowski

Gerson and ImmDef Executive Director in Washington D.C. after participating in legislative visits raising awareness about issues affecting immigrant communities- July, 2019

Soon after Gerson’s arrival, ImmDef’s legal team began representing him and worked tirelessly to defend him against the Trump Administration’s efforts to hamper every asylum seeker and immigrant’s chances of staying in the United States. In April 2019, we succeeded in securing Gerson’s asylum status.


Gerson wasted no time. He committed wholeheartedly to his studies, becoming a fluent English speaker in just a couple of years,

excelling academically, and serving as an inspiring advocate and speaker for immigrant communities. In March 2020, Gerson was admitted to University of California Berkeley where he is now working hard to establish himself in a profession that will allow him to make more contributions to society.

“When I started high school in the U.S, terms like college or higher education did not cross my mind at any point. Learning English was challenging under situations where you tend to lose your thoughts and motivation. When I got into UC Berkeley, I recognized all the elements- people, organizations, and experiences that contributed to that accomplishment. The desire for social justice is something that inspires me to help my community and therefore, the reason for my hard work. The feeling of knowing that I will be attending college with a full ride scholarship after all the things that have happened, is indescribable. Right now, I am beyond grateful and motivated to 

Gerson holds a a poster that reads "I AM #BERKELEYBOUND"

Gerson was admitted to University of California Berkeley in March 2020.

become someone who will contribute to our society and for the next generations. Beginnings are not always easy; it is up to us to define the journey that will determine our personal growth. I believe we all can achieve great things and create change regardless of where we come from. ”-Gerson

To learn more about ways to join ImmDef on its mission to support immigrant communities against systemic injustice in the legal system, click here.