Passover and Asylum and Coronavirus

Today (April 8, 2020) we received notice of approval of asylum concerning a case I successfully tried with attorney Sufen Hilf in December and January in Detroit Immigration Court.  It is not lost on us that we received this great news on a date when we would normally celebrate Passover in the evening with family gathered.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chose not to appeal, and for over the past 6 months our client remained incarcerated like a criminal.  With the news received, our attention shifted toward obtaining transportation from the jail to someplace for him to go, which is not easy with this coronavirus quarantine era upon us.  Is it freedom to be released from a jail in the middle of nowhere, but have no way to get home?  Is freedom the same when you do not have a school, a job, an apartment, and country of birth to return to?  The friends and family that are always there for you are now under quarantine, and so you leave jail, but you are still isolated and you have to do most of the things you need to do on your own, just to get by.  For freedom I guess someone persecuted often gives up a lot to gain much more (if such gains and losses are even comparable).

Just like the Israelites finally tested freedom, so did our client.  Dayenu.  Just like the Israelites escaped persecution and imminent death, so did our client.  Dayenu.

It is ironic that Passover resonates more for me this year, when I cannot celebrate with all of our family in Michigan.  A year when, in my haste, I did not get matzah and manischewitz and brisket for my Sedar [I will not go to the supermarket now, and potentially endanger my family with coronavirus, so we will just have to make due without].

I am very overjoyed that we won for our client, because he truly deserved it.  As lawyers we are paid to zealously advocate on behalf of our clients, no matter how strong or weak the case.  However, there is always a greater pressure when your soul and being tells you that the case is meritorious, and that every description of torture, persecution, abuse, and injury that came from your client’s mouth was 100% true.  It makes you look inside to contemplate the enormity of carrying such a burden for someone else who (absent zealous and determined legal counsel) is defenseless.

Even through we provided every possible argument, every relevant case law, every piece of obtainable evidence, expert support (concerning country conditions, the particular social group, and mental injury), and every needed  and obtainable witness to testify in support of our client’s asylum application – if we didn’t win I would question if it would have been enough.  Even though we do not make the decision for the Immigration Judge, and under the current state of immigration law we have a more tenuous fight to gain approval for asylum, if we didn’t win I would have questioned if it would have been enough.  Even in today’s political climate I would have questioned if it would have been enough.  Losing probably would have given me PTSD.  For now I take time to appreciate our collective victory.

In a year when we cannot be with all of our family, and in a year where we cannot celebrate the ideal Sedar, I give thanks to God, to the persons in life that help us, and I am thankful that I can serve and help others.   Without the same, the freedom we enjoy wouldn’t have the same meaning to me.

  • Daniel Hilf.  Hilf & Hilf, PLC
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