Case Spotlight

Political Asylum & Immigrants’ Rights

Lawyers across Sidley’s U.S. offices handle impact litigation and individual representations, including asylum cases and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. Sidley also partners with our corporate clients to host clinics and staff cases to help asylees and refugees obtain lawful permanent resident status and bring family members to the United States. In 2022, we also hosted clinics to assist individuals seeking Temporary Protected Status, victims of domestic violence seeking immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act, and individuals renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Joyful Reunion for Mother and Sons

Sidley successfully represented a client from El Salvador in her application for asylum — which was originally granted in 2017 following a successful hearing —and her subsequent refugee/asylee relative petition for derivative status for her two young sons, who had remained in El Salvador.

After delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted the petition, and on July 27, 2022, our client was finally reunited with her sons, whom she had not seen for six years. The boys are now in school and living with their mother, stepfather, and two additional siblings. The case was referred to Sidley by CAIR Coalition, who provided the Sidley team with crucial mentorship and support throughout the course of the work.

Seeking Safety From Persecution

Sidley represented a native of the Middle East who had been seeking asylum due to a well-founded fear of future persecution by the government in his home country because of his religious beliefs and activism criticizing that government through his journalism. In 2022, approximately nine months following his asylum interview, he was finally granted asylum in the United States pursuant to Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Presly Baleckita

On March 6, 2019, after six years of advocacy, a Sidley pro bono team obtained asylum for Mr. Presly Baleckita, who fled persecution in Republic of Congo. While in Congo, Mr. Baleckita experienced political persecution between 2008 and 2011. He was arrested and detained in 2009 for participating in a peaceful march opposing the re-election of President Sassou Ngusseo. For the approximately two weeks he was detained, he was beaten and tortured.

The application for asylum included country conditions evidence, affidavits in support, and expert reports and testimony by a country conditions expert and a psychologist.

For the past year, the team has worked with Mr. Baleckita to apply for permanent resident status, and, recently, after more than 10 years, he was finally reunited with his daughter in New York.

“Being reunited in the United States of America with my daughter makes me happy. … I thank Sidley Austin and Bellevue Hospital … [for helping us] to be more strong.”
— Presly Baleckita, Sidley client

Rohingya Man Finds Freedom in U.S.

Our lawyers obtained asylum for a Rohingya man who fled to the United States from his native country of Myanmar after an altercation with the country’s military resulted in an ongoing campaign of harassment against him and his business. The Rohingya people are the subject of intense persecution in Myanmar, with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken declaring that the country’s military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the group in 2016 and 2017. Since being granted asylum, our client has embraced his new community and is looking forward to the time that he can be reunited with his wife and son. The Sidley team worked with the NIJC, which referred the case to Sidley.

SIJS Victory: A New Start for a Young Client

A Sidley team successfully represented a minor child in Texas in achieving Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Working in conjunction with Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), a nonprofit legal organization, Sidley filed a petition on behalf of the child’s mother, requesting that the state court enter certain findings that the child experienced neglect under the supervision of his father in El Salvador. Ultimately, these findings by the court create a pathway to lawful permanent residency status under U.S. immigration laws. Equipped with this court order, Sidley represented the child in Immigration Court under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, where the Sidley team was able to achieve a dismissal of the child’s removal proceedings. The Sidley team was also successful in obtaining U.S. work authorization for the child and looks forward to representing him in his application for lawful permanent residency once his priority date has been reached.

Sidley Pro Bono Team Helps Defeat Public Charge Rule

After years of litigation, a cross-office Sidley team, working pro bono on behalf of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), won a resounding victory that put an end to the Trump administration’s unlawful “public charge” rule.

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