Immigration Judge Grants Asylum Based on Fear of FGM

Our Philadelphia immigration lawyers represented a German-born woman of Nigerian descent in her application for asylum due to her fear of having female genital mutilation (FGM) imposed upon her against her will if forced to return to Nigeria. Normally, women of her culture undergo FGM at a very young age. But due to her birth in Germany and long residence in the United States with her mother on an F-2 Visa, our client would have been forced to suffer this physically and psychologically painful experience with full awareness of what was happening to her. Our client’s father holds a respected position in their culture, and the community surely would force her to undergo FGM if and when they found out that she had yet to do so. Under that very likely scenario, our client would have joined her mother and every other woman in her family in suffering the long-lasting physical and psychological effects of FGM. These effects include decreased sexual pleasure and even discomfort during intercourse, increased pain during childbirth, anxiety relating to sexual relationships, and other psychological harms stemming from these continuing effects.

To avoid this fate, years before retaining our law firm our client’s mother had filed an application for asylum for herself, including our client on that application as her child under the age of 21. Unfortunately neither our client nor her mother were aware that our client would have to file a separate application for asylum upon turning 21. In fact, thanks to the direct instructions from a U.S. CIS employee at an Immigration Service Center, our client and her mother were under the impression that her mother’s initial application that included our client would be valid even after our client turned 21. However, after being placed in removal proceedings and retaining our immigration law firm, our client learned that this was not the case and promptly filed a Form I-589, even though it had been many years since she turned 21. Our lawyers counseled her through the processes of justifying her delayed application for asylum and applying for asylum on her own, including the I-589 statement. After considering our client’s case, the Immigration Judge granted her asylum status based on her fear of being subjected to FGM if forced to return to Nigeria, and she is ecstatic to have avoided going through that harrowing experience.

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