Tcl - One Refugee: a Commercial Litigator's Pro Bono Experience With Immigration Law - November 2005 - Access to Justice

Publication year2005
CitationVol. 34 No. 11 Pg. 85
34 Colo.Law. 85
Colorado Bar Journal

2005, November, Pg. 85. TCL - One Refugee: A Commercial Litigator's Pro Bono Experience With Immigration Law - November 2005 - Access to Justice

The Colorado Lawyer
November 2005
Vol. 34, No. 11 [Page 85]

Departments and More
Access to Justice
One Refugee: A Commercial Litigator's Pro Bono Experience With Immigration Law
by Kenzo Kawanabe

The Access to Justice column provides information about poverty law and other areas of the law as they relate to low-income clients; reports on the Access to Justice Commission and local and national Access to Justice Committees; and testimonials from lawyers about their pro bono experience. Readers interested in contributing an article on legal services, pro bono, and Access to Justice topics should contact Kathleen Schoen

Kenzo Kawanabe is a partner and commercial litigator with Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP - (303) 892-9400

On a sunny Colorado day, I proceed up the concrete steps and ring the front door buzzer of a three-story Victorian-style house near Colfax Avenue on Gaylord Street in Denver. This large house serves as the offices of the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center ("RMSC"), an organization dedicated to assisting refugees who have escaped brutal treatment in other countries. RMSC offers legal training, asylum law mentorship, research support, translators, and meeting space. RMSC also provides mental health services and legal assistance to refugees. The sidebar accompanying this article includes information about the types of cases available to attorneys who volunteer their services to RMSC.

Through the legal services office of RMSC, I have agreed to represent an individual on a pro bono basis in his quest for asylum. On this day, I am meeting my client for the first time.1 My client ("Mr. X") is from Africa ("Country Z"), and is in his early thirties. He displays a kind smile as we shake hands, but I detect a certain sadness in his eyes.

Mr. X previously represented himself pro se. He already had filed his application for asylum and attended the interview in Denver with an officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security.2 Although this officer could have granted asylum to Mr. X, she instead chose to refer Mr. X's case to the Immigration Court for determination. Subsequently, RMSC requested that I assist Mr. X in his proceeding before the Immigration Court.3

I am a commercial litigator, and my last experience in immigration law matters was in law school. Prior to meeting Mr. X, and by way of "refresher" preparation for handling his case, I attended a day-long training hosted by RMSC. Mr. X's story is poignant and moving.

Political Situation in Country Z

The conditions in Country Z are horrific.4 In the 1960s, the country's president ("President Y") overthrew the existing government in a bloodless military coup. Political parties were banned, and all constitutional processes were suspended. Since that time, President Y and his family have ruled Country Z with a tight military grip.

Starting in the late 1980s, opposition parties to President Y began to gain popularity. In the...

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