Pro Bono Victory in Challenging Political Asylum Case

May 4, 2010

Wiggin and Dana is pleased to announce the victory for our pro bono client Sadio Cisse who was granted political asylum in her merits hearing in Immigration Court in Manhattan. Wiggin and Dana undertook the case at the request of Human Rights First. Our associate Laura Chubb was Ms. Cisse's chief counsel, under the supervision of partner Scott Greathead.

Ms. Cisse is a 65 year-old national of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who currently lives in the Bronx and has serious physical and health problems. She was born in Kinshasa (then called Leopoldville), DRC, and speaks only Lingala and Swahili. Her husband was murdered in August 2006 at their home in Kinshasa by rebel soldiers in an incident in which they beat Ms. Cisse with gun butts, almost killing her and very severely injuring her back. Ms. Cisse's asylum claim was based on the persecution she suffered and a well-founded fear of future persecution, and on the ground that because of her physical injuries and continuing need for medical care it would be inhumane to force her to return to the DRC.

The case was challenging because Ms. Cisse does not read or write in any language, lost all her original identity papers when fleeing the conflict in the DRC, and arrived in the U.S. from Mali, where she had fled, using a fake Mali passport. The Department of Homeland Security opposed her claim for asylum on several grounds, including her inability to establish that she was in fact a native of the DRC rather than Mali.

To overcome this opposition, Ms.Chubb argued that Ms. Cisse speaks only Lingala and Swahili, tribal languages that are spoken only in a geographic band stretching east from the DRC and Congo to Kenya and Southern Ethiopia in East Africa, and are not spoken in Mali, and consequently Ms. Cisse could not be a native of Mali. Ms. Chubb also assembled a voluminous record of expert testimony with respect to Ms. Cisse's nationality and physical condition, and documentation of human rights conditions in the DRC.

Wiggin and Dana will continue to represent Ms. Cisse in her efforts to bring to the U.S. three minor children she and her husband adopted after their parents, Ms. Cisse's brother and sister, were killed in the conflict in the DRC.