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Samantha Rumsey and Carol Ruiz

Student advocates argue asylum case

Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic Students Win Asylum for Somali Refugee

The Center for Social Justice has won a grant of asylum for a young father from Somalia who escaped violent attacks by the al-Qaeda-affilliated terrorist group al-Shabaab. Samantha Rumsey ’14 and Karol Ruiz ’15, student advocates in the Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic, successfully argued the asylum case under the supervision of Professor Farrin Anello. Their client, “Mr. M.,” was targeted based upon his religion, minority clan membership, and political views.

Somalia’s longstanding internal conflict has left the country in chaos, with members of minority clans and those who practice moderate forms of Islam vulnerable to deadly attacks. Al-Shabaab, which espouses a militant form of fundamentalist Islam, has used extreme violence to terrorize the Somali population. This September, al-Shabaab carried out the deadly siege at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left over 60 people dead. Based upon his religious practices and minority clan membership, Mr. M. became a target of al-Shabaab members, who threatened him, beat him, shot at him, and forced him at gunpoint to watch a public amputation and execution.

Karol Ruiz remarked, “Our client’s strength of spirit inspired me to work diligently to ensure his case was well-presented. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work of the CSJ and to see the results of painstakingly detailed declarations, affidavits, country reports, and a brief in support of a grant of asylum.” Because Mr. M. was in immigration detention, his case moved very quickly, and the students met with him frequently to compile a 254-page filing and to prepare to present testimony and argument at his final immigration court hearing.

“Representing Mr. M. is by far the most rewarding experience I have had at Seton Hall,” said Samantha Rumsey. “Because Karol and I handled the case from start to finish, we were able to have the full practical experience of building a trusting relationship with a client and honing our practical lawyering skills. When the immigration judge granted Mr. M. asylum, I was overjoyed to see our justice system work to protect such a deserving individual and motivated to continue advocating for indigent clients in the future.”

Samantha and Karol have proved to be an excellent team. Together, they not only provided legal representation but also linked their client to family tracing programs, Somali communities in the United States, and social services to assist in the transition from being confined in detention to living freely as an asylee. Professor Nessel, who co-teaches the Immigrants' Rights/International Human Rights Clinic with Professor Anello, stated, "It’s wonderful to see students experience for the first time the power that comes with being a lawyer and the potential to use their training to change the course of a refugee’s life forever.” Professor Anello added, “I am extremely proud of the careful and thorough work Karol and Samantha have done on this case, and of the work all of our students have done for their clients this semester.”

Students in the Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic (IR/IHRC) represent refugees fleeing persecution and torture, children who have traveled to the United States without their parents, and immigrants who have survived domestic violence or other violent crime in the United States. The IR/IHRC also promotes human rights at home and abroad through international litigation and human rights documentation. Information about the clinic’s most recent report, which examines the denial of work authorization to asylum-seekers in the United States, can be found here.