June 13, 2014

Jenner & Block Associate Michele L. Slachetka was recently selected by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) to receive its “Rising Star” Award.  Michele was one of 14 pro bono attorneys who were presented with the 2014 award at the 15th Annual Human Rights Awards luncheon on June 12.  The award recognizes associate or junior-level attorneys who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to ensuring access to justice for immigrants by devoting substantial time to NIJC work, serving a significant number of NIJC clients, and representing clients with particularly complex cases. 

Michele has taken on several referrals from the NIJC.  In one of her most recent cases, she represented an asylum seeker from Togo, a country beset by political unrest and violence.   In 2005, her client was attending law school when soldiers came to the campus to disrupt a student protest.  When her client tried to flee, he was beaten by soldiers and arrested.  He was then detained, interrogated about his involvement in political activities, tortured, and left for dead.  When he attempted to return to law school several months later, he was stopped by undercover security forces and threatened with death if he ever became involved in political activities.  Finally, in 2012, after her client offered shelter to women and children fleeing a political protest that had been broken up by security forces, a group of soldiers broke into his shop.  The client fled, but security forces ransacked his home, beat his uncle to death, and raped his sister.  The young man eventually arrived in the United States and found his way to the NIJC in Chicago.

When Michele became involved in the matter, she and the rest of the team were up against a filing deadline that was a mere month away.  Within this very short time, they put together a lengthy submission that included three expert affidavits and documents from Togo and prepared the client for his interview at the Asylum Office.  She appeared with him at the interview and, 12 days later, his asylum petition was granted.  To have a win at this very early stage in the asylum process is uncommon and it was an especially great achievement for this client given the tight timeframe the team had to handle the case.

A few years earlier, Michele represented a woman from Rwanda who received asylum at the affirmative application stage.  Michele is currently working on two NIJC referrals, both for clients from Central Africa