The University of Minnesota Law School’s Immigration and Human Rights Law Clinic has secured safe haven in the United States for a client who fled repeated detention and torture in central Africa in 2003. Government forces in his homeland believed (incorrectly) that the client and his wife supported the political opposition. He was held in a small cell, beaten repeatedly, and deprived of food and sanitary facilities. His wife was beaten, raped, and subjected to electric shocks.
In 2008, the U.S. government ordered the client deported to his homeland because he had used an assumed name in his application for U.S. citizenship. He had adopted the assumed name to escape his homeland and continued using it in the United States out of concern for his safety and that of the rest of his family.
Law School students Jonathan Moler (‘11) and Matthew Webster (‘11), together with their student director Dana Boraas (‘10), spent many hours working on the client’s case. They argued that his use of an assumed name in fact underscored his underlying claim of persecution, since he adopted it to protect himself and his family from continued detention and torture.
The students developed a trusting relationship with the client, drafted a comprehensive legal brief and other documentation in support of his claim, and argued his case before an immigration judge in Bloomington, Minn. Their work was facilitated by invaluable assistance from Emily Good (‘03) of the Advocates for Human Rights, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that referred the case to the Clinic.
“The students presented a very compelling case to the court,” says Professor Stephen Meili, the Clinic’s Supervising Attorney. “Their strong relationship with the client enabled them to obtain all of the facts relevant to his claim, and their familiarity with the relevant law enabled them to craft an argument demonstrating that those facts entitled him to remain in the United States. When the judge announced her decision in open court, you could almost see the burden lift from the client’s shoulders. The students should be very proud of their work on his behalf.”
The client is now re-applying for U.S. citizenship.