Cases & Deals

Ugandan National wins asylum

Client(s) Client O

In one of the hardest fought cases the office has had before the Immigration Courts, our client, after nearly six years, won asylum. As background, our client was kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army ("LRA"), a terrorist organization in 2008. For the next 10 days, our client suffered unspeakable acts by the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, and his lieutenants. Finally, after being threatened with her life, our client "agreed" to join the LRA. She was then forced at gunpoint to show her loyalty to the LRA by slapping and hitting a fellow prisoner. Two days later, our client managed to escape by taking part in a raid and fleeing into the woods, saving a villager and her baby at the same time. Upon arriving safely back home, members of a Ugandan paramilitary organization loosely referred to as the "Black Mambas" broke into our client's mother's house, beat our client, her mother and her sister and took our client away in the trunk of a car to a "safe house" where, for two days, she was electrocuted and beaten and suffered atrocities not unlike those in the LRA camp, all in an effort to gain information regarding the location of the LRA camp. The Black Mambas believed her to be an actual LRA member, and did not believe that she had been kidnapped.

Ultimately, our client was able to make her way to the United States. The asylum hearing was quite unique--it was spread over three days and included testimony from numerous witnesses. The Department of Homeland Security vigorously opposed the petition, and their lawyer was extremely difficult to deal with. DHS argued to the immigration judge that our client was a liar and, in any event, even taking what she said as true she was ineligible to receive asylum under the Patriot Act's "Persecutor Bar" because she provided "material support to a terrorist organization" when she slapped and hit the fellow prisoner. Jones Day's very effective examinations and argument carried the day with our very effective immigration judge. In March 2010, the judge issued a very lengthy opinion rejecting the DHS's arguments, and granting our client asylum, finding her absolutely credible and that her actions did not amount to "support" at all, much less the level of "material support" required to trigger the bar.

DHS promptly announced its intention to appeal. It was at this point that the press became involved, and the case became quite high profile, with Jones Day working behind the scenes with Senator Dick Durbin and representatives from his office, Congresswoman Jan Shakowsky and her staff, and other members of Congress. But even with pressure from these elected officials, DHS would not back down, and followed through with its appeal, claiming that the judge was biased in favor of our client and that the judge committed error in finding her credible and in failing to apply the Persecutor Bar. The appeal briefing concluded in February 2010. In the interim, our client secured a work visa, and worked as a nanny, started pursuing a Masters Degree, and ultimately got married and a year ago gave birth to beautiful boy/girl twins.

Finally, on February 18, after waiting four years, we finally received a ruling on the appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals. The order rejected each of DHS' arguments, finding that the mere fact that a judge disagrees with the government does not mean he is biased against it, finding our client credible, and finding that her actions did not rise to the level of "material support." The client (and her husband) are ecstatic. And now, after six years, she can finally put this horror behind her.