The pro bono work that we do at Goldberg Kohn makes a difference in our community and changes people's lives for the better.
Recently a team led by David Morrison received tangible proof of this when MS*, who has been a pro bono client of the firm for six years, was awarded asylum in the U.S. We have been working with MS since she came to America from Darfur in western Sudan as a refugee. Darfuris are darker-skinned Africans who have been the target of a decades-long genocide by the lighter-skinned Sudanese controlling the government. In her home country, our client had been imprisoned twice, beaten, tortured, burned and threatened with death.
MS and her family lived in a large displacement camp with more than 100,000 other Darfuri's who had been forced out of their villages by the Janjaweed, a vicious militia group that is supported by the Sudanese government. Because all schools in Darfur were closed, MS attended university in the capital of Khartoum but was forced to live in a dormitory with only Darfuri women. The university later expelled all the Darfuri women from their dormitory and MS was arrested with dozens of other women. She was imprisoned for a month, where she was tortured and threatened with death.
After returning to Darfur, MS volunteered at the displacement camp to assist widows and orphans, which 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 be killed like her brother before her, MS escaped Sudan, traveling through Egypt, Panama, and Mexico and then presenting herself at the California border as a refugee seeking asylum. MS spoke no English when she arrived in this country in 2015, yet testified in English at her asylum hearing recently in front of the Immigration Court in Chicago, Illinois.
David Morrison's closing statement 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.
We partner with our 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. She praised our team's work and dedication. MS's case was particularly challenging because she had almost no records with her to substantiate her story. Our 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. We 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. Our work like this with McDonald's was honored just a few months ago by the Pro Bono Institute.
Goldberg Kohn really helped create a future with this work – 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 U.S. as a home health care worker and ER technician. Generations of lives will change because of her bravery and, in part, because of our firm's good work. All of us at Goldberg Kohn are proud of what we offer as a firm to all of our clients – top notch legal work with a personal touch and emotional investment in the outcome.
*Our client's full name is not being published since she still fears retaliation from the Sudanese government.