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- Written by Adiyah Ali
Charles Rysavy, a partner at K&L Gates' Newark office, recently succeeded in winning asylum for his client, Jose,* a native of Central America who fled to the United States at age 15 to escape severe physical and psychological abuse by his father. Jose, his siblings, and mother suffered the abuse for years, with several of the children escaping the home as soon as they were old enough to do so.
When Jose fled to the United States for protection, he was apprehended by immigration authorities. Jose was released to the custody of a sibling in New Jersey where his immigration case proceeded. With Charlie's help, Jose applied for asylum.
After nearly a year-and-a-half, USCIS granted Jose asylum in November 2011. Jose is now free from the fear of being sent back home to face continued abuse.
"Jose is such a great kid," Charlie said. "He now has the opportunity to do so much with his life. He's currently a junior in high school, is doing well with his studies, improving his English, and is adjusting extremely well overall to life here in the United States. He understands the magnitude of the opportunity that he's been given, and I'm confident he'll make the most of it."
Charlie added, "It [the process] was very rewarding. I tend not to have individuals as clients – and definitely not children – so it's not often that I get to see a smile on someone's face and know that my legal work literally made a life-changing difference for someone."
Charlie has been practicing toxic tort, product liability, and commercial litigation for over 25 years in federal and state courts around the country. That experience has allowed him to become well-versed in a broad variety of federal and state court procedures. Navigating USCIS administrative procedures and the U.S. immigration court system, however, presented a unique challenge.
Charlie's KIND pro bono coordinator, Morgan Alen, mentored Charlie throughout the case, providing advice and general support every step of the way. "Morgan's help was invaluable," Charlie said. "I leaned heavily on her, and her expertise provided me with plenty to lean on. Our success on Jose's case is as much attributable to Morgan as it is to me, probably more. We're both extremely pleased with the outcome."
KIND is extremely pleased as well, and thankful for Charlie's representation of a child who otherwise could have been returned to a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Charlie continued to represent Jose through the process of getting a green card.
"The idea that anyone can do this without a lawyer is absolute nonsense," Charlie said. "I found it very confusing even though I'm a lawyer, so it's inconceivable to me that a non-lawyer – especially a child – could navigate their way through this process alone."
KIND could not agree more.
*Name changed to protect client's identity