May 10, 2022

The Firm prevailed seven years after filing application for asylum.

On April 14, the Chicago Asylum Office granted asylum to Willkie’s pro bono client Mr. J after his application was pending in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services backlog for seven years.

Mr. J is a gay man from Macedonia and was seeking asylum based on his sexual orientation. While in Macedonia, Mr. J was verbally abused and physically assaulted due to his sexual orientation. In grade school, he was bullied for being gay. His classmates called him homophobic slurs, spat on him, and on one occasion lit the ends of his hair on fire with a lighter. Throughout his life, he was physically attacked for being gay. At just 13 years old, he was beaten so badly he was hospitalized for two days and developed a stutter as a result. When his mother found out about his sexual orientation, she beat him with a wooden clog. As an adult, he was even attacked and threatened by police for being gay and logged into a “gay database” so the police could continue a reign of terror over him.

Through its partnership with Immigration Equality, Willkie began representing Mr. J in 2015. Willkie filed Mr. J’s application for asylum shortly after and began preparing/compiling supporting materials, including an affidavit, a country conditions index, medical records, and an expert report from a trauma therapist explaining that Mr. J suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of the verbal and physical abuse he experienced in Macedonia.

In late March 2022, Willkie received notice that the interview was scheduled for April 6, 2022—giving Mr. J only a couple of weeks to prepare. During the interview, Mr. J detailed his experiences of violence and hostility in Macedonia and the physical and emotional injuries he has suffered from as a result. The asylum officer found Mr. J’s story compelling and credible and stated that he was particularly impressed with Willkie’s submissions and advocacy on Mr. J’s behalf. The decision granting asylum was issued quickly after the hearing. 

The Willkie team consisted of partner Elizabeth Bower, associates Stephanie Miner, Jamielah Yancey and Alexis Dorner, former associates Gorana Neskovic and Amanda Azarian, paralegal Van Strother, and administrative assistants Lela Strittmatter and LaVaron Bratton.

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