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April 27, 2016
A dedicated team in the LA office represented Kenya, a transgender woman from El Salvador, in her bid for asylum in the United States. Kenya fled El Salvador after suffering employment and educational discrimination as well as violent attacks that the police ignored. On one occasion she was shot while working on behalf of an LGBT rights organization in San Salvador, and she left for the United States after her roommate - another transgender activist - was murdered. Kenya was ineligible for bond, so was in custody from the time of her arrival in November, 2015.
Jeff Kiburtz and Neema Sahni spent a great deal of time at the Santa Ana Jail prepping Kenya for her testimony, which she delivered beautifully at the asylum hearing on April 25. In fact, after only about twenty minutes, the immigration judge turned to the Homeland Security lawyer and asked, “Do you really need to hear any more?” At that moment, the government consented to the grant of asylum and waived any right to appeal. This morning Kenya was released and is en route to stay with a friend in Las Vegas where she hopes to enroll in school and study to become a nurse.
Neema Sahni co-wrote the compelling pre-hearing brief. Jeff Kiburtz collected evidence from El Salvador and Mexico to corroborate Kenya’s testimony about her persecution and took her testimony at trial. Jeff and Neema handled the hearing. Mitch Kamin supervised, including mooting Neema on the closing argument she never had to deliver.