Cases & Deals

Mongolian client granted U.S. asylum to avoid police brutality

Clients Mongolian applicant for U.S. asylum

A team of Jones Day attorneys consisting of Victor Arana, a Trial Practice associate, John Min, a former associate, and Tom Hackney, a summer associate, scored an unprecedented asylum win (at least for the Chicago office) yesterday. Our Mongolian client, himself a lawyer, was beaten severely by Mongolian police after he challenged the so-called 'Sober Up' law, which authorized the Mongolian police to detain citizens without probable cause on suspicion of being intoxicated in public. Aware that the police used Sober Up to harass citizens who may have committed no illegal act and to extort money from those citizens (e.g., the police threatened to arrest and jail innocent citizens whom they had stopped without cause unless they paid the police substantial sums), our client challenged the law through various levels of the Mongolian judicial system. After more than a year of proceedings, he finally prevailed before the Mongolian Constitutional Court, which struck down the law. Our client's efforts led the Mongolian Parliament to enact new legislation curtailing the wide discretion previously left open under the law.

The Chicago office's previous asylum wins have come either after an evidentiary hearing before an immigration judge or following an appeal in the Seventh Circuit. But this case was decided at the initial stage. Asylum applicants are generally interviewed by an asylum officer shortly after submitting their written applications. The purpose of the interview is for the asylum officer to make an initial determination as to whether the applicant's claim has merit, and the vast majority of claims are denied at this level. Then, following the initial denial, the applicant must appear before an immigration judge in an evidentiary hearing. In this case, however, the Jones Day team beat those odds and prevailed at the interview level: first, by persuasively presenting the client's case in his application-after scouring the landscape for an expert who could submit a supporting affidavit; and then by supporting the claim orally at the interview. Finding the expert was difficult because Mongolia-a country that is has been independent for thirty years following decades of Soviet rule-has a reputation for democracy and a good human rights record compared to the other countries in its region. Nonetheless, the Jones Day team demonstrated that corruption can exist among the police in the most democratic of societies and that corrupt officers may retaliate against anyone who attempts to expose them.