Sayeda Abbas ’12, Dina Kleyman ’12, and Shannon Karam ’12 began working in the Safe Harbor Clinic in Spring 2011. They had no idea that it would take more than a year before their client won his asylum claim in New York Immigration Court. Their client was a young man from South Asia who was severely hurt by his father’s political enemies. The case was a complex—requiring overcoming a one year filing deadline, significant challenges in obtaining evidence from abroad and coordinating work with other counsel in a closely related case to which their case was ultimately consolidated. At the hearing, Kleyman conducted direct exam of their client so effectively that the judge didn’t need to hear the testimony of the other applicant. Neither Abbas nor Karam had to conduct the witness examinations they had prepared. In fact, the government lawyer stipulated to all of the fact and expert testimony provided, as the case had been prepared so thoroughly. “It is very unusual for the government attorney to stipulate so broadly in immigration court,” said Professor Dan Smulian, the students’ supervising attorney. “It is a testament to the skill with which the students prepared the case.” At the end of the hearing, the judge went out of her way to praise the students for their work.
Amanda Bernardo ’12, Laurie Cartwright ’13 and Michelle Kim ’12 worked on behalf of a transgender woman from Central America who was recently granted a recommended approval for asylum. Although the clinic had represented gay and lesbian asylum seekers in the past, this was its first transgender client. Bernardo, Cartwright, and Kim successfully gathered evidence and crafted an argument to overcome the fact that their client had not filed for asylum until many years after she entered the U.S. They also clearly presented the terrible living conditions awaiting their client if she were forced to return to her home country as a transgender women. After many hours of effective preparation, their client acquitted herself with great aplomb in her asylum interview. “In the United States our client finally found an accepting community and the resources to assume her true gender. Ms. Bernardo, Cartwright and Kim’s excellent advocacy have allowed her the security to dream of a productive future and a fulfilling life,” said Smulian.