Case Status Updates: Attorney Shaffer goes 2 for 2: Helps 2 Clients Win Their Asylum Cases in Immigration Court on the Same Day.
Morning Case: In the first case of the day, Attorney Shaffer represented a client who is a citizen and national of Sierra Leone, (hereinafter, Client "X"). X entered the United States in January of 2013 with a B-2 Visitor Visa and applied for Asylum within 1 year of her entry. X filed for Asylum because she was subject to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when she was a young girl. FGM is a recognized form of persecution by the United Nations and the United States, including the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
In the precedential case, Matter of A-T-, the BIA determined that FGM was so atrocious and harmful to victims, that a finding of past persecution gives rise to a reasonable fear of future persecution. In other words, generally for one to be eligible for asylum, she must show that she was subject to past persecution AND that she has a reasonable fear of future persecution. However, for claims involving FGM, the applicant does not have to prove that she will be subject to FGM in the future.
Despite the fact that X had a strong Asylum claim, her case was not granted at her initial interview at the Asylum Office so her case was referred to Immigration Court. According to the interviewing Asylum Officer, although X credibly testified that she was a victim of past persecution and thus fit the definition of a Refugee, her Asylum application could not be granted because there was a fundamental change in circumstances in that X would not be harmed if she returned to Sierra Leone. This is an incorrect application of the law, but you cannot appeal the decision of the Asylum Office, instead you are given a second chance to prove your case in Immigration Court.
At the hearing, X once again credibly testified to the horrific procedure that was performed on her as a young girl. After a short hearing, the Immigration Judge granted her Asylum!
Afternoon Case: In the afternoon, Attorney Shaffer represented a client who is a citizen and national of The Gambia, (hereinafter, Client "Y"). Y entered the United States in January of 2011 with a B-2 Visitor Visa but missed the 1-Year filing deadline for asylum, filing approximately 10 months late. Y's Asylum claim was also based on the fact that she was subject to FGM back home, but Y's case was not initially approved due to her untimely filing. As such, the main issue litigated in Y's case was whether or not she was eligible for an exception to the 1-Year filing deadline.
In order to be eligible for an exception to the 1-Year filing deadline, the applicant must prove that there was either a fundamental change in circumstance or that the late filing was a result of extraordinary circumstances. The applicant must also prove that she filed within a reasonable period of time.
Y qualified for the exceptional circumstance filing exception. The two FGM procedures performed on Y as a baby caused her to suffer numerous complications, including severe stomach pains and infertility. About 8 months after entering the United States, Y underwent surgery to remove uterine fibroids. Unfortunately, although the fibroids were removed, Y's pain did not subsist and she continued to suffer everyday, preventing her from engaging in daily routine activities. Y returned to the emergency room several times in the year following her surgery. Y finally applied for Asylum in October 2012, about 1 year and 10 months after first entered the United States, when she finally felt well enough to go out and find a lawyer. Unfortunately, even after she filed for Asylum, she continued to suffer the same pain and discomfort, forcing her to return to the emergency room several more times over the next few years. Y ended up needing a second surgery to remove more fibroids. The first surgery was so traumatic, Y spent almost 3 years in severe pain before she had the courage to go through with the second surgery.
At the hearing, the Immigration Judge had no doubt that Y's illness qualified as an exceptional circumstance. The issue was whether a reasonable person who was similarly situated would have filed the application earlier. After explaining to the court that she could not even work for almost 10 months after her first surgery, the court found that Y's delay in filing was reasonable and granted her Asylum!
Now that X and Y have been granted Asylum, they both will be able to file for Green Cards in 1-Year from today. Congratulations!
If you are thinking about filing for Asylum or if you in Removal/ Deportation Proceedings, contact an experienced immigration attorney at The Shapiro Law Firm today to find out if you are eligible and what your options are.
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