In a month of grim and terrible news, Alex Gillett, staff attorney for JFON Michigan’s Grand Rapids office, gives us something to feel good about.
The client—let’s call her Sol—is from Cuba, part of the LGBTQ community there, and an outspoken critic of Cuba’s record on human rights.
Sol’s chance to make her case for asylum was scheduled for Tuesday, March 17. She was fortunate to have Alex, an experienced and dedicated attorney, by her side.
The judge granted the client asylum and the opposing ICE attorney waived their appeal—meaning the decision would be final. Alex had won her case and Sol would be able to remain in the United States.
“Before and after our hearing on March 17, the immigration judge and the ICE attorney both expressed concern about still having hearings during this pandemic,” says Alex. “I was concerned too, but we really didn’t have any choice but to move forward. So I pushed aside my own anxieties over the coronavirus, and instead focused on her case.”
For the two weeks leading up to Sol’s hearing, with alarming news reports of a growing pandemic, Alex wasn’t sure if her client’s hearing would go on or be cancelled.
“I was mostly worried because the government has a poor record of communicating for cancellations, closings and rescheduling appointments,” she explains. “And if a client fails to attend a court hearing or appointment, it could lead to deportation or have other negative consequences for their case.”
The court is more than two hours away for both Alex and her client—and Sol’s father had come all the way from Florida to testify on his daughter’s behalf. The day after Sol’s case was decided, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees our nation’s immigration courts, postponed all hearings of non-detained immigrants.
Alex admits she is relieved that she and her client squeaked through before the EOIR’s announcement.
“While I was anxious about going to the hearing and potential spread of coronavirus,” she says, “I am thrilled that my client was granted asylum and that we got the decision now instead of having to wait another few months for her hearing to be rescheduled. “
Alex smiles happily, “It was a really important win for me and even more so for my client after all the repression and persecution she’s been through,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve finished processing it all.”