Last Monday was a busy day for my family and me. Originally, I planned to attend an asylum hearing for a Burmese client in Virginia and to send another attorney (Ruth Dickey) to cover an Eritrean asylum case in Baltimore. At the same time, my wife and I were expecting our second child on Tuesday. Since our first born arrived late, and since the doctor seemed to think Number Two would follow a similar pattern, I hoped to complete both cases and then focus on the family. Of course, nature takes its own course, and things did not work out as I planned.
Early Monday, my wife’s water broke, and we were off to the hospital. I figured the Eritrean client was in good hands, and I left a message at 2:00 AM for the court clerk in the Burmese case stating that I would not be able to attend the hearing that day. I figured the Immigration Judge would understand, and I already gave the client a letter to present to the IJ in case the baby arrived early.
Labor progressed through the morning, and at some point I learned that the Eritrean client received asylum. The DHS attorney was fairly satisfied with the case we presented, and only asked to hear about the client’s journey to the U.S. So after a short direct and cross, focusing basically on the client’s travel, DHS agreed to a grant (and so did the IJ). (Congratulations to Ruth on a job well done).
More surprising news came later. I managed to reach my Burmese client, and I told her that I would not make it to court after all. I assumed that we would receive a new court date, and I would try the case at that time. I must admit that I wasn’t thrilled with this option. Country conditions in Burma have been improving, which is great for Burma, but not so great for Burmese asylum cases. A delay might result in a weaker case. Also, delays can be very long, and this client had already been waiting for almost two years for her day in court. But clients, like new babies, have minds of their own. My client did not want to wait for another court date, and so (unbeknownst to me) she told the IJ that she wanted to proceed with her case without me. Like the Eritrean case, the Burmese case was fairly strong, and DHS was mostly convinced that asylum should be granted. So the DHS attorney cross examined the client about her case, and in the end, agreed to a grant.
I suppose the lesson is that most asylum cases are won or lost prior to court. If the DHS Trial Attorney is presented with a strong case and is convinced that the respondent qualifies for relief, odds are good that they will agree to a grant of asylum. And when DHS agrees, the IJ will almost certainly follow suit.
So, the final results for Monday: Two asylum grants and one new baby girl (who is hanging out with me as I type this). Not a bad day’s work, if I may say so myself (and yes, I suppose some credit goes to my wife for the baby and to Ruth for litigating the case in Baltimore).