Blog Entry 15

Posted by David Koelsch
David Koelsch
David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law C
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on Thursday, 20 October 2011
in Faculty Blogs

Winning is not everything and sometimes we learn more from losing than winning.  That's all fine and good but winning still beats losing and some wins are sweeter than others.  A client of the Immigration Law Clinic recently experienced a particularly sweet victory:  not only does the decision mean that our client will not have to return to a country where she was tortured but it also gives her access to a life full of opportunities she would not have in her home country.  Our client is a young woman who is deaf.  Her father was involved in a peaceful political  opposition movement advocating for democracy and human rights.  She was an easy target when the government troops stormed their house because she did not hear them and had no time to run away.  She was brutally tortured in an effort to punish her father for his actions. 

The Asylum Office in Chicago granted our client asylum after a lengthy interview.  Students (and their professor) left for the interview at 4:00 a.m., drove straight to Chicago, conducted four interviews and drove straight back to Detroit and arrived home well after midnight.  The interview itself was challenging:  we had to arrange for two interpreters in her native language and then in the form of sign language used in her country.  So keeping track of the thread of questioning was difficult.  At the time, exhaustion and stress were the prevailing mood although we knew we had prepared a solid application and our client had done well in the interview.  Imagine the relief and joy on the part of our client (and students) on the news that she was granted asylum!

This decision will allow this bright woman to gain from and give back so much to her adopted country.  In her home country, she would live a marginal existence and not have the opportunity to advance her education or to work.  In the U.S., she can complete her education and go out to serve others with disabilities.  Our asylum process is designed to offer protection to persons who have suffered persecution but, in this case, it is truly a win-win for this young woman and the U.S., as we all have so much to gain from her being allowed to build a life in the U.S.

All clients are special and unique but success for this client in some ways means more than for others.  For the students who worked with this client, it was a lesson in legal skills as well as humility.

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About the author

David Koelsch

David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic and the Asylum Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The Immigration Law Clinic represents immigrants on a variety of legal issues, including abandoned immigrant children and abused immigrant women. Professor Koelsch also teaches U.S. Immigration Law and a comparative U.S.-Canada Immigration Law course as well as a Seminar on Spirituality and the Law. Koelsch was named the 2009 Outstanding Immigration Law Professor by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.