Cases & Deals

Eighteen year-old refugee obtains asylum after years of violence in Somalia and Kenya

Clients Client AH

Client AH was born in war-torn Somalia in 1993, two years after the overthrow of former President Siad Barre. Since birth, until he fled Somalia, he was surrounded by violence and warfare between rival majority clans. Every day was a struggle for him, his parents, and five siblings. Often the fighting between majority clans was so intense that Client AH and his family could not leave their home.

In addition to the fighting between rival clans, there was and still is violence directed at minority groups who cannot protect themselves. Client AH and his family belong to one of those minority groups, the Asharaf clan. On account of their Asharaf identity, he and his family were targeted by members of the majority tribes. When he was five years old, two armed majority tribesmen broke into his home and held his father at gunpoint. His father fled and was never seen again. Shortly thereafter, majority tribesman raped and later murdered one of his sisters. At school, his teacher beat him on multiple occasions, on account of his minority status.

In recent years, the situation in Somalia has grown worse. Since 2006, Islamic militias, such as al-Shabaab, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, have taken control of much of Somalia. They have gained and retain their power through violence, intimidation, and the abusive application of shari'ah law. Punishment for violations of shari'ah law involves draconian forms of torture, such as stoning, amputations and beheadings. Client AH and his family practice Sufi Islam, a denomination condemned by al-Shabaab and other religious extremists in power. The extremists have closed Sufi mosques and forbidden Sufis to pray at shrines and graves for the deceased. They oppose Sufi beliefs, which they believe defy true Islam. If he were forced to return to Somalia, he would face persecution as both a tribal minority and a Sufi Muslim. Furthermore, al-Shabaab kidnaps and kills young men who refuse to join its cause and fight.

In 2005, at age 12, Client AH fled Somalia to live in Kenya with his aunt. His situation in Kenya was dire as well. As an illegal immigrant, he had to hide from authorities and was denied access to education and other public services. Although he was able to avoid detection, his brother, who also was living in Kenya, was beaten by the police on account of his Somali ethnicity. To escape the persecution Client AH faced in Somalia and Kenya, he fled to the United States in June 2010, traveling by plane, bus, boat, and foot through South and Central America. Upon finally reaching the safety of the United States in August 2010, Client AH told immigration officials he wanted the chance to live in peace. Immigration officials detained him at the border and sent him to the International Children's Center (ICC) in Chicago, Illinois, where he was detained until his eighteenth birthday on January 1, 2011.

Although Client AH was in removal proceedings, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) allows unaccompanied alien minors to file an affirmative I-589 Asylum and Withholding of Removal application with the Asylum Office, instead of the Immigration Court. On December 14, 2010, Jones Day Chicago's Ellenna Berger and Nikki Swift took on his representation and helped him file his application before January 1, 2011. On March 7, 2011, Ellenna and Nikki represented Client AH at his asylum interview at the Chicago Asylum Office, and after six long months of waiting, the Asylum Office granted his application.

Client AH is a motivated, resilient and intelligent young man who currently lives with a Somali sponsor in Chicago and attends GED classes at Truman College. (Some of you may have met him last summer at the NIJC annual luncheon.) His English has improved tremendously in the year that he has lived in the US. After passing the GED, he hopes to attend college and study to become a computer programmer.