Seated across the table was a diminutive woman who barely looked up from the floor. Her curly hair hid the prettiest lashes and eyes, but she sat hunched and unsure of herself in the initial consultation in my office. Instantly, my heart went out to her as I gently asked questions in Spanish to determine what I could do to help her. In an emotionless, matter of fact manner, the young woman told me that her entire family had been killed by gangs and that she was the sole surviving member. She recounted a harrowing tale of escape, a grueling walk across countries and borders and several intense assaults as she finally landed in America, away from her tormentors.
In my more than 15 years of practice, I had heard many, many similar stories but this woman’s story of survival was among the worst I had encountered. I knew she had a valid asylum claim but her trauma was so entrenched that I couldn’t imagine how she would withstand the grueling court process . Still, I explained the asylum process and agreed to take her case. That was 4 years ago.
In order to have a valid asylum claim in the United States, a person must prove that she has a reasonable, credible fear of being harmed or killed if she returned to her country. She must prove that a person, group of people or the government itself has persecuted her because of her race, gender, religion, class or as a member of some social group. The instances of persecution must show deliberate targeting of the person in question. A mere retelling of general economic or social problems within a country is not enough to gain asylum in the United States. Proving these things is a daunting task; one that requires an experienced attorney who will fight for your right to be granted asylum. Ideally, a person should apply for asylum affirmatively within one year of arrival into the country. This usually allows one to avoid attending court and to prepare and send the application and comprehensive evidence to USCIS (immigration services).
In the case of the woman before me, she didn’t know this rule and so waited more than 2 years until she received a Notice to Appear in Court, to file her asylum application. This meant she was placed in removal proceedings and was forced to defend her deportation by arguing for asylum before a judge in Chicago’s Immigration Court. My client’s case was further complicated by the trauma and memory loss she suffered from. Until her case was heard in court, she couldn’t obtain a valid work permit. As her lawyer, I was able to obtain an earlier date so she could get her work permit earlier than expected. Despite this, her case dragged on for 4 years, mostly due to scheduling issues at the court and then the shutdown that occurred during the pandemic.
Ultimately, we had our day in court. And what a day it was! Due to our constant prepping and explanations, my client knew exactly what to expect and was prepared to give a compelling, consistent testimony. This was the fruit of hours and hours of practice in our office, where I explained the nuances of her case and reassured her of her worth and her right to gain asylum. After a three hour long court case, the judge said the magical words, “asylum granted”.
The room erupted into cheers. My client cried joyfully; her daughter leapt in the air; I was engulfed in the tightest of bear hugs; the judge tried to hide a smile. My client, who was once all alone in the world, beaten but not defeated, who had lost everything and everyone, walked hand in hand out of the court, breathing easily for the first time in her life.
We had won her asylum case, and all was right in the world.
Do you want to process your immigration case but do not know where to begin? Call our offices at 630 504 0648 to get a free case evaluation from one of our assistants.
Remember: It is always best to hire an immigration lawyer to help you. Now is always the right time to start with your case.
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