Obtaining Asylum for a Woman in Need

June 17, 2013

On May 5, 2013, Kaye Scholer successfully obtained a grant of asylum for a pro bono client known as KD.

As a young woman living in the West African nation of Guinea, KD was twice forcibly subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision. In fall of 2007, KD, now married, travelled to the United States with her husband on a tourist visa to visit family friends in Brooklyn, NY. While in Brooklyn, she became ill and, upon visiting a hospital, learned that she was pregnant as well as HIV+ (the result of a blood transfusion she received after being medically treated for injuries sustained during the FGM). Upon learning this, KD remained in the US to raise her daughter and receive medical treatment.

KD sought legal assistance from the New York Legal Assistance Group in 2009, which referred her case to Kaye Scholer in 2010. KD wanted to pursue asylum so that she could continue receiving HIV/AIDS treatment that would not be available in Guinea, as well as to protect her daughter from the possibility of also being forced to undergo FGM, which has been inflicted upon approximately 96 percent of Guinean women.

A Kaye Scholer team filed an application for asylum on her behalf, noting that the past infliction of FGM was a form of persecution and an objective reason to fear returning to Guinea. Her application was referred to the Immigration Court for review, where its greatest challenge was her untimely filing–asylum applicants are required to file within one year of their arrival to the US. However, we argued that the depression that the client suffered upon her diagnosis, coupled with the day-to-day demands of raising her infant daughter and dealing with her illness, constituted “extraordinary circumstances,” as defined under the statute, and were sufficient to excuse her delayed filing. In support of that argument, we presented KD’s testimony in the Immigration Court, along with supporting records, the affidavit of a Country Conditions Expert on Guinea, and the affidavit and testimony of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who evaluated KD and diagnosed her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After two merits hearings, where we confronted strong arguments by counsel representing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration Judge Noel Brennan granted our asylum application. In doing so, she thanked the Kaye Scholer team for their hard work on this matter and their pro bono service. DHS has until July 5 to file an appeal.

The Kaye Scholer lawyers representing KD were Counsel Stacey Lara and Associates Chris Ortiz and Kyle Gooch. Pro Bono Manager Elly Spiegel and Associate Daniel Hope also contributed to the case. 

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