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The City Bar Justice Center and its Refugee Assistance Project Honors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for Successful Asylum Representation

Friday, July 26, 2013

  • Organization: City Bar Justice Center

The City Bar Justice Center and its Refugee Assistance Project are extremely grateful for the outstanding legal representation provided to a recent asylum-seeker by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer attorneys Katharine O’Neill and David Russo, as well as legal assistant Jeremy Constancio. After a tireless effort by the Freshfields team, the client was granted asylum here in the United States. This is a wonderful victory for the asylum-seeker, who suffered immensely in his native country of Panama on account of his sexual orientation and HIV-status.

Mr. X is a gay man with AIDS who fled Panama in 2012 after a lifetime of discrimination, harassment, abuse, and violence. As a child, Mr. X was regularly ostracized, humiliated, and beaten by family members and classmates for his perceived effeminate mannerisms. As an adult, he moved away from his family and attempted to start a new life in a different city, but was again targeted by random strangers and even members of the Panamanian police on account of his orientation. Initially diagnosed as HIV-positive, Mr. X eventually developed full blown AIDS in 2008. As a result, he was frequently terminated from jobs or passed over for employment because of his HIV-positive status. After a particularly brutal attack in 2011, when he was accosted on the street and viciously beaten by three individuals shouting gay slurs and threatening to kill him, Mr. X decided that he could no longer safely live in Panama. He fled to the United States and was referred to the Refugee Assistance Program at the City Bar Justice Center in December 2011. After a thorough screening interview, RAP matched Mr. X with a team of pro bono attorneys at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP.

The Freshfields team put together a very strong asylum application on his behalf. Their submission included a detailed, well-written, and extremely sympathetic affidavit for the client, as well as a memorandum of law, medical records, country condition research, and various supporting affidavits. The Freshfields team also submitted an important expert affidavit from the client’s psychotherapist regarding his fragile psychological state and the debilitating impact a forced return to Panama would have on Mr. X. The team spent countless hours not just on their written submission, but also preparing their client for his asylum office interview. The Freshfields team’s hard work and effort paid off, as Mr. X testified beautifully the day of his asylum interview.

The City Bar Justice Center recognizes Katharine O’Neil, David Russo, and Jeremy Constancio’s zealous advocacy on behalf of their client. The Project also extends special thanks to Freshfields partner, Aaron Marcu for his support. City Bar Justice Center’s Refugee Assistance Project Director, Jennifer Kim thanks the whole team saying, “I am extremely grateful to you and the firm, and I look forward to celebrating many more asylum victories with Freshfields attorneys”.

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