Asylum Decades in Waiting
June 24th, 2019
We would like to share our client’s amazing story of bravery and perseverance to inspire everyone to keep fighting for what they want, as even when our government’s actions are questionable there is always hope.
Selim was a teenager when he found his way to America in August of 1999. Since he was 5 years old he had been displaced by the savage war in Somalia that had claimed the life of his father.
His family, which consisted of his mother and 4 sisters, resided for a brief time in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya and later relocated to Eastleigh, Kenya, an area near Nairobi where there was a large number of Somalian refugees.
He had no formal education and suffered from a physical disability as well. Life as an undocumented Somalian refugee was hard.
The chance to come to the United States was truly a dream come true and certainly a result of severe sacrifices endured by his mother.
As with many asylum seekers Selim had neither a passport or a visa in his name. The trafficker, who managed his journey, maintained possession of the travel documents that were used to secure his entry to the U.S.
Selim never had access to those documents, and that had been the story of his life to date, a life without an identity, without documents, and without security.
So a boy, not even 18 years old, was left alone at a Masjid (a place of prayer) in Washington, DC, without the ability to speak English and without a record of his entry to the U.S.
Fortunately for Selim, some of the members of his religious community gave him a place to stay and helped him complete a request for Asylum. He quickly found himself before an immigration officer and while his story was compelling the officer believed that due to the fact he could not establish when he arrived in the U.S. his application for Asylum must be denied.
The Immigration Officer issued a Notice to Appear and placed the young boy in Removal (Deportation Proceedings).
The next few years were tough for Selim. He had to survive in a new country without family, without documents and not knowing the language or culture but he had endured worse. When he finally had his chance to appear at the Immigration Court he presented his case well. The Judge found that he was credible and that he deserved a chance to remain in the U.S. but he was not eligible for asylum because he could not prove that his application was filed during his first year in the U.S.
Selim had just turned 20 and although he had not been granted asylum, he was permitted to stay. He received a permit to work and a social security number, and for the first time in his life he had an ID, a document that identified him and said he belonged, or at least, that is what he thought.
True to his nature, Selim set to work to support himself, to learn English, and to study. In a short time he qualified to enter a University and completed his Bachelor’s degree. He found a good job in a professional setting as a researcher, met a woman from a similar background, married and started a family. This seemed almost unimaginable from where he began.
One day, almost 8 years after his trial, Immigration Officers appeared at his home and seized him with a warrant that claimed he had been ordered deported. When they released him to his family they place an electronic monitor bound around his ankle. Selim was not actually free.
Selim was referred by a friend to the immigration lawyers at FitzGerald Law Company for help. When Attorney FitzGerald reviewed his documents he found that the Judge had not signed an order of Deportation and the warrant was not valid. Attorney FitzGerald filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the federal court.
A Writ of Habeas Corpus is a request for a court to free a person from unlawful detention, so it was not easy for Attorney FitzGerald to convince the court that Selim was eligible for it, since he had been released. But being bound by an electronic monitor under an order of deportation is not freedom. It is most certainly a form of detention.
Attorney FitzGerald also filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals to have Selim’s case reopened. The appeal explained that Selim was eligible for asylum because he was still a minor child when he filed his claim, and therefore, the law did not require him to prove when he entered the U.S.
The BIA agreed and ruled that Selim’s Removal/Deportation case was reopened and remanded it to the Immigration Court in Tennessee to reconsider Selim’s asylum claim. Selim’s electronic monitor was removed and he felt free again.
Selim still had one last hurdle to overcome. He had no birth certificate, schools records or identity documents to prove his age which was essential to his claim. He was required to prove to the Immigration Court that he filed his asylum claim before he was 18 and 1/2 years old to qualify for asylum without evidence of his date of entry to the U.S. The attorneys for the Department of Homeland Security wanted Selim to produce evidence of his age that could be verified. Unfortunately that was just not possible for the Somalian refugee, whose community was destroyed by war when he was a child. Attorney FitzGerald determined that because Selim’s asylum application was filed prior to the enactment of the REAL ID Act of 2005 he could base his claim on his testimony without any supporting documents if his testimony was credible.
Over the next several years Selim prepared for his trial with FitzGerald Law Company attorneys and staff. There were a number of hearings at the Immigration Court in Tennessee and Selim would dutifully take time from his job and family to appear. Finally in Spring of 2019, 2 decades after he arrived in the U.S. and applied for asylum, he had his asylum claim considered properly under the law. Selim’s testimony was not only credible but compelling, and the Court and the government lawyers agreed with Attorney FitzGerald’s assessment of the law.
The result was a grant of asylum, decades in waiting.
If you or any family member would like the assistance of our Massachusetts lawyers experienced in immigration, criminal and personal injury law, please call to schedule an appointment at: (617) 303-2600
The FitzGerald Law Company Team