April 16, 2015
In January, former Immigration Clinic students supervised by Prof. Blake Nordahl won asylum for a family from El Salvador. This concluded a more than two year struggle to obtain status. Among the students representing the clients were Cristina Andrade, '14, Sahir Faidi, '13, and Qamar Fareed, '15.
The principal client was an evangelical pastor from El Salvador whose religious work included providing services to gang members to encourage them to leave the gangs and re-integrate into the community. His church provided counseling, education, health services, and ministry. The family faced threats and attacks as a result of this work. Eventually the family fled to California when the attacks escalated. Religious persecution is a recognized ground for asylum and was the basis of the asylum application.
In this case, the family contacted the clinic with less than a month left before their one-year filing deadline after they realized that they had been taken advantage of by a non-lawyer notary who charged fees but did not do any work on their case. The clinic quickly filed an application to protect the clients' rights.
Sahir worked with each of the family members to draft individual declarations detailing their life histories and extensive details about the basis of the asylum claim. Cristina and Qamar finished the declarations and drafted the brief, which required substantial legal and historical research, comprehensive interviewing and fact-checking. Qamar prepared the clients for the asylum interview and attended the interview in San Francisco. About his work, Qamar said, "I was in a position to do actual good, and have a profound effect on a family's life, so I took my job very seriously."
Asylum law is intended to protect refugees from future persecution in their home countries. These cases present evidentiary challenges because the events happened in another country. Nonetheless, Immigration Clinic student teams continue to have success in these cases. The Clinic also handles legal advocacy, DACA, U Visas, and VAWA cases.