Valparaiso University Law School

Valparaiso University Law School Immigration Clinic Wins Two Asylum Cases

Prison Guard From El Salvador Fights Against Corruption and Violence; Finds Safety in United States

WQ worked as a prison guard at two prisons in El Salvador where dangerous gang members were detained. The government of El Salvador had implemented a policy in which imprisoned gang members were offered certain privileges and access to illicit items as a way of inducing the gangs to reduce violence and murders. WQ refused to comply with these orders because he believed the practice of giving in to gang members’ demands was corrupt and unjust. As a result, imprisoned gang members assaulted and attempted to kill WQ while he was on duty. Gang members killed several of WQ’s fellow prison guards for their refusal to comply with the gangs’ demands. WQ’s boss told him that he had to smuggle illicit items into the prison for the gang members or he would meet the same fate as his co-workers.

In an effort to protect himself, WQ transferred to another prison facility, but gang members there quickly made it clear that they knew where he lived and that he was still very much in danger. The gang members also knew the identities of his family members and began threatening them. WQ received multiple threats from gang members who had learned that he was not willing to smuggle illicit items into the prison. Fearing for his life and the safety of his family, WQ fled El Salvador and sought asylum in the United States. On March 29, 2018, Valparaiso University Law School third-year students, Jennifer Nunez and Humberto Valencia won asylum for WQ.

Immigration Clinic Wins 8-Year Asylum Case for West African Man

On March 29, 2018, Valparaiso University Law School third-year students, Amalia Gemelas and Hans Lin won asylum in a challenging immigration court case that has lasted for eight years. KD is a man from Togo with dual citizenship in Benin. He became affiliated with a disfavored political group in Togo. As a result, he was targeted by agents of the Togolese government and taken to a secret police prison on two separate occasions. While KD was there, he was subjected to beatings, torture, and other inhumane treatment. KD lived in constant fear for his life as he saw other members of his political group murdered and left to float in the river. Worst of all, he lost his wife and daughter in a failed assassination attempt on him. Following these experiences, KD fled Togo to Benin to try and preserve his life. While there, he received notice that the authorities were still searching for him, and was forced to go into hiding. During that time, KD suffered a mental breakdown due to the overwhelming nature of his experiences. He was eventually able to flee Benin and has been undergoing treatment for both his mental and physical health issues.

After his arrival in the United States, KD applied for asylum and was placed in removal proceedings. Complicating his case was the fact that he had experienced all of his persecution in Togo, but also holds Benin citizenship.

Former Valparaiso University Law School students Andrew Voeltz (‘13) and Christine Kelly (‘13) originally represented KD in court. At that time, the Immigration Judge found that KD had failed to show he could not be safe in Benin, despite Voeltz and Kelly recruiting a journalist who had filmed a documentary describing the porous borders between Togo and Benin.

The Immigration Clinic filed a successful appeal and the case was sent back for a new hearing. At that hearing, Gemelas and Lin conducted direct examinations of the client and introduced a new expert witness, Dr. Benjamin Lawrance, a professor of African history at the University of Arizona and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Studies Review. Dr. Lawrance testified that in his expert opinion, KD could not be safe in Benin. As a result of this new testimony, the judge granted KD asylum.