Valparaiso University Law School Immigration Clinic Wins Asylum for Eritrean Man

On February 14, 2017, Valparaiso University Law School Immigration Clinic third-year students, Brandon Carter and Chelsea Hillman, won asylum for an Eritrean man who had been persecuted for his political beliefs. BM, who is referred to by his initials in order to protect his identity, was an Eritrean citizen, but was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked. In Saudi Arabia, BM and his father attended meetings of Eritrean expats, during which they sometimes expressed views critical of the repressive Eritrean government. When they returned to Eritrea for a wedding, they were arrested, detained, interrogated about their statements in Saudi Arabia, and tortured. They escaped from detention when a family member paid a bribe. Afterward, they returned to Saudi Arabia, but again faced persecution – this time due to their religion. BM was twice arrested, detained, and beaten by Saudi religious police for practicing Christianity. Eventually, BM escaped to the United States.

Chelsea and Brandon assembled substantial documentation to support BM’s story, including articles on Eritrea’s extensive international network of spies and affidavits from family members, country experts, a medical expert who documented that BM had been tortured, and a psychological expert. Two of the experts were Valparaiso University faculty – History Professor Chuck Schaefer and Associate Professor of Law, Faisal Kutty.

Brandon and Chelsea met weekly with the client at the Valparaiso University Law School Hyde Park office and helped him write a detailed affidavit telling his story. They drafted a brief addressing complex issues of asylum law. In court, Chelsea gave an opening statement and handled preliminary matters, and Brandon conducted a direct examination of the client. Both engaged in extensive dialogue with the judge concerning their theory of the case and the evidence to support it. As a result of their hard work and legal skill, their client can now begin a new life in the United States.