Cases & Deals

Albanian granted U.S. asylum on humanitarian grounds

Clients Albanian applicant for U.S. political asylum

Our Jones Day Chicago team finally obtained asylum for a client we've represented since April 2001, after struggling before an Immigration Judge who, after many days of hearing and testimony by a number of experts, denied asylum in a perfunctory decision that all but ignored our evidence; and later before the Board of Immigration Appeals, which affirmed the IJ without opinion. Last summer, the Seventh Circuit granted our Petition for Review of the IJ and BIA's decision and the case was remanded to a new Immigration Judge, who recently granted asylum on humanitarian grounds. Kendra Morrill, our former colleague Beth O'Connor, David Birnbaum, and Katie Poleon did a wonderful job representing our client and deserve warm congratulations for achieving this fine result. This result was particularly gratifying because it was so long coming and for such a deserving client. Here is the background of the case:

Our client is an ethnic Albanian who fled Kosovo in 1998 as a 17-year-old. As a teenager, he was repeatedly stopped, arrested, beaten, and tortured because of his father's, and his, involvement in the LDK (a political organization opposed to Serbian rule of Kosovo). In April 1998, our client watched as the Serbian police executed his father and mother in his own home. He fled, making his way from Kosovo to Macedonia, then to Greece, and eventually to Canada and, finally, the United States, where he sought asylum. We began representing him a few months before his scheduled merits hearing, which ultimately took place over several days in 2001 and 2002. At the hearing, Kendra and Beth established through the testimony of our client, his psychiatrist, his brother, a physician, a physical therapist, a psychotherapist, an expert in Kosovo country conditions, and a linguist that our client was tortured, and his parents murdered, by Serbian police because of his and his father's anti-Serbian political activities. Nonetheless, the IJ denied asylum because he concluded our client was not credible, largely because of an opinion submitted by the government's document examiner that the client's birth certificate was not genuine. The IJ noted in his opinion, however, that, if credible, our client's testimony regarding his persecution by the Serbs for his father's and his political activities established past persecution under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Kendra and Beth, with David's help, appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which issued a scathing opinion finding that, in the face of the overwhelming testimony regarding our client's persecution, the denial of asylum based on the document examiner's report lacked a reasoned basis. The case was remanded to a different IJ.

On remand, the new IJ noted that country conditions in Kosovo had changed since our client fled, and that it likely would be safe for him to return there. Kendra, Beth, and Katie argued that it was still unsafe there, and that, regardless of the conditions in Kosovo, our client's persecution was so severe that he should be granted asylum for humanitarian reasons. The IJ agreed to hold a hearing on the humanitarian-asylum issue before addressing the country-conditions issue. At that hearing, after minimal testimony from our client, the IJ noted the torture that our client endured, the fact that he saw his parents killed, his young age when he arrived here, the stable life that he had established here, and all the other factors that we have repeatedly argued entitled our client to asylum. The IJ then granted our client asylum for humanitarian reasons.