June 01, 2011

Representing Torture Victims and Other Asylum Seekers

Seeking asylum is a high-stakes endeavor for many immigrants wanting to stay in the United States. Having a lawyer is important; having credibility is crucial.

Ana C. Reyes

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Our representation of Ms. N included an eggplant. Ms. N and her husband are strictly opposed to female genital mutilation, which is widely practiced in their home country and which Ms. N herself had suffered. Despite their opposition, they were unsuccessful in preventing their older daughter from being mutilated. While Ms. N’s husband was away traveling, the elder women in her village took the girl at knifepoint, held her down, and cut off her genitals. When it was over, the women bounded the girl’s legs together with rope to stem the vaginal bleeding, tying the rope so tightly that her legs began bleeding from various lacerations. For the next week the young girl, like her mother before her, sat outside on her doorstep next to an eggplant—the eggplant signifying that she had had her “transformation.” Among many other fears, Ms. N feared that her other daughters would be subjected to the same fate if the family was returned to their home country. So, she applied for asylum in the United States.

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