Immigration-Human Rights Clinic Helps Secure Asylum

Through the efforts of the University of Minnesota Law School's Immigration and Human Rights Law Clinic, a west African woman can put to rest her fears of female genital mutilation. She has been granted asylum in the United States.

The woman, who requests that her name and country of origin not be disclosed, had fled to the United States after undergoing genital cutting. She feared that if she returned to her home country, she would be subject to a second component of the procedure and that her young daughters (who were born in the United States) would be forced to endure the painful and dangerous practice.

When the woman's plight came to the attention of the Advocates for Human Rights, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, the Director of its Refugee and Immigration Program, Emily Good ('03), who is also a Law School adjunct faculty member, referred the case to the Immigration and Human Rights Law Clinic.

Students Elsa Bullard ('11) and Elizabeth Super ('11) and their student director Brianna Mooty ('10) gathered factual evidence in support of the client's application, wrote a brief to the Immigration Court, and prepared the client for her asylum interview.

"The team worked tirelessly on this case," says Professor Stephen Meili, the Clinic's Supervising Attorney. "In addition to doing the research and legal preparation needed, they developed a strong and trusting relationship with our client, which is critical in such cases." He notes that Good also provided invaluable assistance.

"The client is ecstatic and very grateful to the students and the Law School," Meili says.

In 1997, the World Health Organization, U.N. Children's Fund, and U.N. Population Fund issued its first joint statement declaring female genital mutilation to be a violation of human rights. The practice continues in Africa, some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, and some immigrant communities in North America and Europe for a combination of cultural, religious, and social reasons. WHO estimates that in Africa alone, 3 million girls each year are at risk for the procedure, which can result in life-threatening hemorrhage and shock as well as long-term complications.