Law Students Secure Asylum for Religiously Persecuted Man
Friday, June 01, 2007
Two University of Tulsa law students have helped secure asylum for a young man from Eritrea who was persecuted for his religious beliefs.
The students – Rebekah Guthrie and Luis Flores – are law student interns for TU’s Boesche Legal Clinic Immigrant Rights Project, a clinical program in which TU law students represent non-citizens in immigration matters. Guthrie and Flores represented the man after he had escaped to the U.S. after being persecuted and imprisoned because of his membership in a religious minority and his refusal to abandon those beliefs under threat from his government.
Asylum was granted to the man, who now lives in Tulsa, in February by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This was the first final decision reached in any cases handled by the Immigrant Rights Project.
The man was caught praying in an underground Bible study in Eritrea. He was interrogated and ordered to recant his faith by that country’s military officials. When he refused, the man was tortured for more than three months in an effort to force the client to reject his faith.
Ultimately, he escaped and made his way to Tulsa, where he found out about TU’s Immigrant Rights Project through a friend from Eritrea who is a TU student. Guthrie and Flores worked with the client to document his case and flew to Houston in December to represent him at his asylum hearing.
The Immigrant Rights Project’s clients include persons seeking asylum in the U.S. as a result of persecution or a fear of persecution in their home countries, as well as non citizen survivors of domestic violence seeking lawful immigration status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Representation occurs in adversarial administrative hearings before immigration judges; in non-adversarial agency interviews; in appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals; or, as necessary, in appeals to the federal courts.
In the first two semesters of the clinic’s operation, the clinic has represented more than a dozen clients from Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Indonesia, Russia, Honduras, Canada and Eritrea.