Goldberg Kohn's pro bono work continues to make a difference in the community and change people's lives for the better.
Recently a team led by David Morrison received tangible proof of this when MS¹, who has been a pro bono client of the firm for six years, was awarded asylum in the United States. The team has been working with MS since she came to America as a refugee from Darfur in western Sudan. Darfuris are darker-skinned Africans who have been the target of a decades-long genocide by the lighter-skinned Sudanese controlling the government. MS had been imprisoned twice, beaten, tortured, burned and threatened with death in her home country.
After being forced out of their village by the Janjaweed, a vicious militia group that is supported by the Sudanese government, MS and her family lived in a displacement camp with more than 100,000 other Darfuris. Because all schools in Darfur were closed, MS attended university in the capital of Khartoum where she was forced to live in a dormitory with only Darfuri women. The university later expelled all the Darfuri women from their dormitory, and MS and dozens of other women were arrested. She was imprisoned for a month, where she was tortured and threatened with death.
When she returned to Darfur, MS assisted widows and orphans as a volunteer at the displacement camp. This led to her second arrest because the Janjaweed targeted volunteers at the camp. Realizing that she would never be able to live in peace, and likely would be killed like her brother, MS escaped Sudan. She traveled through Egypt, Panama and Mexico and presented herself at the California border as a refugee seeking asylum. MS spoke no English when she arrived in the United States in 2015. Yet she testified in English at her recent asylum hearing before the Immigration Court in Chicago.
David Morrison's closing statement at her hearing summed up her bravery in this way: "The trauma MS has endured is greater than any of us here could imagine and her psychological evaluation makes clear that she mentally relives that trauma regularly even in the safety of the United States. The genocide and atrocities that afflict Darfurians living in Sudan compound the specific harms she has borne as a result of her simply living as a Sudanese woman in Darfur who steered her life by a moral compass to help those less fortunate than her."
The entire Goldberg Kohn team has found her to be an incredibly brave and amazing woman during this long ordeal. Obviously, the years since her arrival have been an emotional journey for MS and an emotional investment by our team consisting of David and paralegal Heidi Smith. Heidi devoted many hours to researching, drafting and organizing materials for the case.
Goldberg Kohn partners with firm client McDonald's and the organization NIJC on many asylum cases. McDonald's attorney Jane Mansell also threw herself into this case with great devotion, and praised Goldberg Kohn's work and dedication. MS's case was particularly challenging because she had almost no records with her to substantiate her story. The Goldberg Kohn team worked with her to obtain affidavits and statements from family and friends, which was very difficult with people still living in fear in Darfur. The team also found experts who could substantiate her claims based on their knowledge of events that occurred in Sudan or a forensic examination of her mental and physical state. The firm's work for asylum seekers, in partnership with McDonald's, was honored just a few months ago by the Pro Bono Institute with its 2021 Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award.
MS is now working to move her parents and seven brothers and sisters out of the displaced person's camp and to the capital of Sudan, with money she is saving from her work in the United States as a home health care worker and ER technician. Generations of lives will change because of her bravery and, in part, because of Goldberg Kohn's good work. The entire firm is proud to offer all clients top notch legal work with a personal touch and emotional investment in the outcome.
¹Our client's full name is not being published since she still fears retaliation from the Sudanese government.