Immigrant Rights Clinic Obtains Asylum for Client


The Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) obtained asylum for a man who fled his native Cameroon to escape criminal prosecution for being homosexual.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, was arrested in Cameroon and faced up to five years of imprisonment. He subsequently fled and attempted to enter the United States through Tijuana, but was detained and held at the Adelanto Detention Facility for eight months.

UCI Law students Johnanthony Alaimo (2L) and Carol Park (2L) first represented the client during his bond hearing, at which point they were successful in getting bond set at $3,000. The client chose to stay detained until his asylum hearing, however, scheduled for one month later. In the interim, Mr. Alaimo and Ms. Park determined it would be best to represent the man in his asylum hearing.

“There’s a lot of overlap between the two hearings, so after speaking with our professors we decided to take the case,” Ms. Park said. “We only had three weeks to prepare, and it was daunting at first because there was so much at stake and we didn’t want our inexperience to impede the goals of the client.”

It was the first time the IRC represented a client in an asylum hearing.

The students combed through country reports about Cameroon, contacted numerous expert witnesses to testify at the hearing, researched and cataloged news stories regarding Cameroon’s government, presented the client’s birth certificate and an affidavit from his attorney in Cameroon, and developed a case theory and direct examination to help the client tell his story.

“Through numerous meetings with our client, we were able to construct his narrative and prepare him for any questions that may be lobbed at him by the judge or government attorney,” Mr. Alaimo said.

Ms. Park said it was the credibility and consistency of the client’s story that ultimately won Judge Ian Simons over.

“We backed everything up with evidence,” Ms. Park said. “The main opposition was the government attorney questioning whether or not our client was actually gay, but Judge Simons had faith we were telling the truth because we put forth a consistent story.”

“It’s rare in our work, because of the kinds of cases and projects that we do, to have a clear and final win for a client,” said Sameer Ashar, Clinical Professor of Law and Co-Director of the IRC. “To have helped a good man avoid the criminalization of his identity was particularly rewarding for us in this political moment in the United States.”

“Working on this particular case, I learned how much hangs in the balance for just one individual,” Mr. Alaimo said. “Our client fought for their life to resist removal back to their home country where they would face persecution and torture just because of who they are.”

“I’m extremely happy because it was the first asylum case IRC handled, but we proved we’re capable,” Ms. Park said.