Pro Bono Work Helps Two Clients Receive Asylum in the United States
August 19, 2003
Washington, D.C.,—Kelley Drye's Washington, D.C. office announced that it helped two clients receive asylum in the United States in the last two weeks. Kelley Drye associates represented an HIV/AIDS educator and activist from Zimbabwe and an HIV positive man from Jamaica in their asylum applications before the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service). In one year, both will be eligible for legal residency status and may later be eligible for citizenship.

“The associates devoted a tremendous amount of time and effort to help these two people – often giving up whole weekends to their work,” explained Paul Rosenthal, Kelley Drye’s Washington, DC Managing Partner. “Beyond their personal sacrifice, they have each advanced the cause of tolerance and we are proud of their efforts.”

On August 8th, a woman who spent ten years raising awareness and educating women and children in Zimbabwe about HIV transmission was granted political asylum. She had been falsely accused by the ruling political party in Zimbabwe of working for the main opposition party and for foreign interests that might seek to undermine the government. At the same time, the opposition party accused her of working for the ruling party. Her work as an educator had taken her to remote areas of the country and had necessitated her contact with many groups of people. Since 2000, she had been visited by the police and secret service at her workplace and home, blindfolded and taken to undisclosed locations, and interrogated for several hours at a time, sometimes overnight and sometimes under torture. Several of her friends and colleagues “disappeared” after being questioned by the government.

The woman feared that if she had returned to Zimbabwe she would “not have made the trip from the airport to my family's home alive.” She has settled in the United States, where she hopes to continue her work in public health. She has been living with HIV for over ten years and is receiving medical treatment not available to her in Zimbabwe.

“According to the State Department, more than one third of the adult population in Zimbabwe is HIV positive,” “When HIV/AIDS is this pervasive, it is not just a public health issue; it becomes politicized.”

On August 4th, word was received that the client, an HIV positive Jamaican man was also granted asylum. Because of his sexual orientation, the man had been beaten by family members and acquaintances as well as mistreated by the Jamaican police, and subjected to employment discrimination. In Jamaica, homosexuality is a crime and reviled by most members of society. The man feared that if he returned to Jamaica his HIV status would make him subject to increased persecution.

According to a 2001 Amnesty International report on Jamaica, “the police have failed to protect gay people from violence in police detention or to assist victims or witnesses of homophobic crimes. In some cases reporting of incidents of homophobic violence to the authorities has resulted in further victimization and ill-treatment at the hands of the police.”

“Besides the open hostility towards homosexuals in Jamaica, this man was fearful that he would suffer discrimination in medical treatment due to his HIV+ status.” “He would have been victimized twice. In the U.S. he can receive the medical care he needs to manage his condition.”

The man now resides in the Washington, DC area. He is able to work and support himself and is receiving medical treatment. The associates' work is part of Kelley Drye’s larger commitment to pro bono work. Kelley Drye participates in the DC Bar’s Pro Bono Initiative and donates a minimum of three percent of all billable hours towards pro bono causes.

Kelley Drye's Washington, DC office solves competitive problems for Fortune 500 companies, privately held corporations, and trade associations in the US and abroad. The firm has over 100 attorneys and professionals practicing in the following areas: Advertising and Marketing, Antitrust and Competition, Business Strategies and Transactions, E-Commerce and Technology, Environmental, FDA, Government Relations and Public Policy, Intellectual Property, International Trade, Litigation, Privacy, and Trade Associations.