Immigration and Human Rights Clinic Wins Asylum for Afghan Woman

In 2021, Saima Fazli was one of more than 124,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Allies Refuge. Fleeing Taliban rule, Fazli and her family came to the United States. While her mother and siblings qualified to be on her father’s Special Immigration Visa, Fazli was just a few months over the cutoff age of 21 to be included.

That’s where the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic came in to help. In its fourth decade, the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic was the first immigration-focused clinic at Minnesota Law. It is now one of four immigration clinics housed within the Law School’s James H. Binger Center for New Americans. Fazli worked with Binger Center partner The Advocates for Human Rights to be paired for pro bono representation with the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, which focuses on representation for asylum seekers.

The clinic began working on Fazli’s affirmative asylum case early in 2023. By December last year, she was scheduled for an asylum interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which took place in January. In late March, the 24-year-old was granted asylum. She can soon apply for her Green Card as she continues on the pathway to U.S. citizenship.

Mackenzie Heinrichs ’18 is an immigration and human rights clinical fellow and visiting assistant clinical professor of law in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic. She supervised the clinical student attorneys working on Fazli’s case.

“Immigration law is not just challenging, but awkward, because you have to ask people really personal questions about themselves,” says Mackenzie. “I always notice students greatly improve their ability to interview and their rapport with the client. It was hard with Saima at first because she’s a quieter person, not outgoing, and you could tell sometimes that she was uncomfortable. But by the end, she liked all the students and had a great relationship with everybody. I think everybody on the team did really well. They were kind and understanding. You could tell they were rooting for her, which helped her succeed.”

Read the full story in the digital edition of Minnesota Law magazine