May 20, 2021 – The firm won asylum for a Somali refugee fleeing sectarian violence and the al-Shabaab terrorist group, ending his nearly five-year journey in search of safe haven.

On April 9, an immigration judge in Buffalo, New York, in a reversal from his previous decision three years ago, granted the firm’s client asylum, finding him qualified as a refugee under U.S. immigration law and deserving of relief.

The immigration judge’s decision was the culmination of a years-long ordeal for the client that began in Mogadishu, Somalia in 2015, when majority clan members murdered his mother and confiscated the house in which they had been living because they belonged to a minority clan. 

Somali authorities refused to provide any redress, forcing him to flee Mogadishu for the Somali town of Afgooye, where his uncle lived. Not long after he arrived, however, the local mosque where he regularly practiced his Sufi religious faith came under violent attack by the al-Shabaab terrorist group. Unsafe in Afgooye and unable to return to Mogadishu where his mother’s killers were still looking for him, his only option was to flee Somalia altogether.

He arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in September 2016, where he presented himself at a port of entry and applied for asylum and other relief. He would spend the next three years in federal detention, during the course of which an immigration judge denied his asylum claim, primarily because it supposedly was uncorroborated, the Board of Immigration Appeals summarily affirmed the denial, and he appealed pro se to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hughes Hubbard took on his appeal in summer 2018, and, in summer 2019 represented him in a habeas proceeding he filed pro se in the Western District of New York, taking up the argument that his at that point nearly three-year long detention violated his due process rights. In a harbinger of things to come, once the petition was fully briefed, the government quickly capitulated, agreeing to provide the client a bond hearing, following which he was released.

The Second Circuit scheduled remote oral argument on the asylum appeal for May 2020. A few days before argument, however, the government asked for a stipulated remand. In exchange, the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed to consider on remand new evidence the client had obtained, effectively reversing its previous decision to deny his pro se motion to reopen based on that same evidence.

Following submission of the parties’ stipulation requesting remand, on May 19, the Second Circuit issued a summary order in which it “agree[d] that a remand” to the Board was “appropriate” and directed the Board on remand to consider, in addition to the new evidence, seven issues raised by the decisions below and identified in the briefs.

On remand, the Board sent the case back to the immigration judge for additional fact-finding in light of the new evidence and issues identified in the Second Circuit’s order. Back before the immigration court, after the new evidence was submitted, the government agreed not to oppose the client’s claims for relief.

At an April 9 hearing, the same judge who previously had denied asylum on the ground that the claim was uncorroborated, agreed that on the expanded record, the client established his eligibility for relief and entered the order granting asylum.

The team included Ted Mayer, Greg Farrell, Hannah Miller, James Henseler and Joseph Tahbaz.