Archive: Case Profiles, 2008-10
Here are summaries of cases handled by students in the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic from the fall of 2008 through the summer of 2010:
In April 2010, Erica Carroll ’10 and Jordan Abbott ’10 handled a hearing in the Hartford Immigration Court at which they won a grant of asylum for a family from Haiti. One of their clients had been threatened with death and shot at by supporters of Haiti’s ex-president due to his work as an organizer for an opposing political party. His pregnant wife was beaten so badly by men looking for him that their child has suffered permanent brain damage. The entire family can now live securely and safely as residents of the United States.
In another April 2010 hearing, Ellen Messali ’10 and Tara Nenart ’10 convinced an immigration judge to grant asylum to a woman from Peru who fled from severe domestic violence inflicted by a man who treated her as his property. When she tried to leave the relationship, her abuser followed her to different parts of Peru, and even to Argentina. Asylum eligibility based on domestic violence involves complex and unsettled legal issues, and the case was a challenging one, both factually and legally.
In May 2010, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld and made final a favorable decision issued by an immigration judge after a hearing handled by Jeanne Hayes ’10 and Rubina Dawud ’10. Their client fled the Congo Republic after his house was destroyed by the military during a time of widespread violence against his ethnic group. The case was complicated by the fact that he spent eight years in South Africa before coming to the U.S., and then missed a filing deadline for his asylum application. The students successfully argued that extraordinary circumstances excused the late filing; that their client’s tenuous legal status in South Africa meant that he was never “firmly resettled” there; and that, despite the passage of many years and a change in regime, he still faced a significant risk of persecution in his home country. The judge’s extensive written decision is now being cited as a precedent in other cases. When the Department of Homeland Security appealed the asylum grant, further advocacy by Amber Doucette ’10 helped to ensure that the decision was upheld.
In February 2010, Katayoun Sadeghi ’10 and Vincent Vuffante ’10 won a grant of asylum after a hearing at the Department of Homeland Security’s Asylum Office for their client, a young man who was threatened and pursued by armed religious fundamentalists in his Central Asian homeland because of his volunteer work with an international organization promoting HIV awareness and prevention. They overcame enormous challenges in obtaining witness statements and documents from a country where people have good reason to fear for their safety if they assist an asylum seeker.
Amrita Singh ’10 and Christopher Wasil ’10 successfully argued on behalf of a client from Central Africa at another hearing held in January 2010 in the Asylum Office. Their client was arrested, beaten, sexually abused, and detained under life-threatening conditions after she and her pastor husband were accused of criticizing the government during prayer meetings. Rita and Chris gained their traumatized client’s trust, developed the facts in detail, and tactfully probed aspects of the story that if insufficiently explained might have been viewed as implausible or inconsistent. After the asylum grant, the Clinic continued to represent our client to obtain visas that allowed her children, who she was forced to leave behind in her home country, to join her in the United States.
Michelle Iandoli ’09 and Timothy Gondek ’09 handled two separate hearings on behalf of their client, a woman from South America who was severely beaten and faced death threats after she came out as a lesbian, and could not get any protection from the authorities in her country. After an asylum officer rejected the claim at an initial hearing, they took the case to trial in the Immigration Court, where, at a May 2009 hearing, they presented powerful and convincing testimony from their client and a scholar who has studied the treatment of gays and lesbians in their client's country. The immigration judge was persuaded and granted asylum.
Shawn Herrick’09 and Katherine Aldrich ’09 won grants of asylum at an April 2009 hearing in the Hartford Immigration Court for a family from Central America. The case raised a number of cutting-edge legal issues involving domestic violence and asylum for people persecuted because of their family affiliations. Shawn and Katie faced the additional hurdle of convincing the immigration judge that the mental trauma their clients had suffered excused them from filing their asylum applications within the statutory one-year deadline. After a lengthy hearing, they prevailed in what the judge described as a "close case." Their clients, a mother and her two teenage children, are now building a new life in the U.S. Another daughter, also with the help of Clinic students, won an asylum grant in a separate proceeding in the fall of 2008. Work on these cases spanned several semesters, and Alyssa Torres ’08, Daniel Perez ’08, Robert Reed ’08 and Elda Sinani LL.M. ’08 all made vital contributions in the earlier stages.
In the spring of 2009, Sonya Geiger ’10 and Gary Murphy ’10 convinced the Department of Homeland Security to grant asylum to a young man from Nigeria. His mother was murdered because of her activity as a political dissident, and the killers left behind a death threat aimed at the entire family. The client, whose leg had been amputated following an unrelated accident, was in the United States at the time, receiving medical treatment not available in his home country. Sonya and Gary presented convincing evidence that their client’s life continued to be threatened by the men who had killed his mother, and that he would face likely persecution because of his physical disability.
In another spring 2009 Asylum Office hearing, Sara Nadim ’10 and Lindsay Corliss ’10 won a grant of asylum for a West African woman who fled from escalating violence inflicted by her husband and his family because of her refusal to undergo female genital mutilation. Sara and Lindsay tackled another case the next fall, writing a persuasive appeal brief for a South American woman who was stalked in three counties by her controlling and abusive husband. They built on the earlier work of Adam Dobson ’10 and Joanne Cossitt ’09, who had skillfully tried the case in the Hartford Immigration Court in the spring of 2009. The immigration judge found their client credible but decided that she was legally ineligible for asylum. While the appeal was pending, the client was granted permanent resident status in the United States based on an application filed by a U.S. citizen relative.
In December of 2008, in the Hartford Immigration Court, Ashley Turner ’09 and Changmo Kim ’10 won a grant of asylum for a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who saw her father killed by government soldiers, and then was herself beaten, raped and left for dead. In April 2009, Ashley gave an engaging and inspirational presentation about the case to students taking an international relations class at Hartford Public High School's Law and Government Academy.
In a January 2009 Asylum Office hearing, Edwin Colon ’09 and Jonathan Gottesman ’09 won a grant of asylum for an 18 year-old girl from West Africa who fled her homeland after enduring beatings and sexual assault from government soldiers seeking her father, a political dissident. After the hearing, their client expressed her feelings in a letter:
"I was wondering how life would be in the new place, a life with no mother, no brother, no father, not even a cousin. I came and met people who did their best and gave their best to show me the way to safety and hope. You cry when I cry, you laugh when I laugh. During all this process, you cared and worried about me. You struggled to make me happy; you took your time and worked hard to protect me and make me safe in this country. I didn't feel like I was with a lawyer, but with a brother. I can now get a job, and even go to college and study hard like you guys. I thank you a thousand times. I am so happy. I can never forget about what you guys have done for me."
In another January 2009 hearing, Jonathan Burby ’09 and John Kim ’09 persuaded the Asylum Office to grant asylum to a young man from a South Asian country. Their client had been sent to the United States as a young teenager, following the murder of his father, a police officer investigating terrorist activity. The students presented detailed evidence of related attacks and threats against his family to show that their client remained at risk.