Jenner & Block

Firm Obtains Asylum for Four Tibetan Buddhist Refugees

In just over two months, a team of Jenner & Block attorneys secured asylum in the United States for four Tibetan Buddhist refugees who had been persecuted by the Chinese government in Tibet due to their political and religious beliefs.

Supervised by Jenner & Block Partners James A. McKenna and Donald R. Cassling, the team was comprised of Associates Aaron M. Forester, Kathy A. Karcher, Keith V. Porapaiboon, Mitchell K. Rovner and Bilal Zaheer.

The clients, two men and two women, were all devout Buddhists and followers of the Dalai Lama.  Each escaped Tibet through an arduous journey across the Himalayas into Nepal, where they lived in hiding and in fear of repatriation to Tibet.  Upon their arrivals in the United States, the clients were arrested and imprisoned in the McHenry County Correctional Facility, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, while they waited for their immigration hearings to take place. 

“Given that our clients were being held in detention, these cases were heard on an expedited basis and required very intensive work by our attorneys,” said Mr. McKenna.  He also noted that the clients spoke no English, which required the Jenner & Block attorneys to retain Tibetan translators to travel with them on their meetings with the Tibetan clients.

Each of the clients had an evidentiary hearing before an Immigration Judge, at which they were subjected to thorough cross-examination by the government attorney and by the Court.  Through careful preparation and convincing arguments, the Jenner & Block team persuaded the Immigration Judges that their clients had established a well-founded fear of future persecution if they were to be returned to Tibet and were therefore entitled to asylum.  The clients, who range in age from 21 to 31 years old, now reside in New York and Minnesota. 

The Jenner & Block attorneys volunteered their time on a pro bono basis, working with attorneys for the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), as part of the NIJC’s Detained Immigrant Protection Project.