HIRC students recently landed two exciting victories for asylum clients seeking refuge in the United States following traumatic experiences in their home countries.
Escaping LGBT Persecution in West Africa
Over the course of a year, Sophie Glickstein ’15 and Sussan Lee ’15 worked extensively on the asylum case of a gay West African man, ostracized by his community and physically assaulted for his sexual orientation. The man originally arrived in the United States in 2010, and unsuccessfully applied for asylum without the help of an attorney, before being referred to HIRC by Immigration Equality, an NGO that supports and represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers in the United States. Glickstein and Lee began their work on the case in September 2013.
In order to prepare for the case, Glickstein and Lee interviewed the client and conducted country conditions research on the state of LGBT people in his home country, focusing on the threats to the client from his tribe, from his community and from rising conservatism and Islamic extremism in his home country. The danger to the client was quite evident, according to Glickstein. In a series of incidents, the client was attacked under the suspicion that he was gay. “After his true orientation was discovered, he would almost certainly have been killed by tribal, community, or family members if he’d stayed in his home country,” Glickstein said.
The traumatic and sensitive nature of this experience made the story difficult to relive, a process that is necessary for court preparations. Glickstein and Lee worked to earn the trust of the client, so that he could feel safe and comfortable sharing his story. “Through our many and lengthy meetings with the client, we were able to build that baseline of trust and able to thoroughly represent him and prepare him for his direct and cross examinations in court,” Lee said.
The initial immigration court hearing, where the client testified, took place in April, but there was not enough time to present the expert witness testimony so the judge continued the case to September, to allow for testimony by the expert witnesses. Glickstein and Lee had to re-prepare the expert witnesses and closing argument for the September date; however, when their day in court arrived, the judge made her decision without needing to hear the extra testimony. “Even though we knew we had a strong case, we were stunned,” Lee said.
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