Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Phil Torrey, Abraham, Cindy Zapata, and Alicia Coneys, J.D. '19 stand in front of a wall reading 'John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President of the United States Inaugural Address January 20, 1961'
Pictured left to right: Clinical Instructor Phil Torrey, Abraham, Clinical Instructor Cindy Zapata, and Alicia Coneys, J.D. ’19

Abraham* began his journey at the Harvard Immigration Clinic (HIRC) in 2011, when he first met Managing Attorney Phil Torrey. Abraham had suffered severe persecution at the hands of the government in his home country in East Africa and came to HIRC to help him build his case for asylum.

Though Abraham had strong evidence of well-founded fear, his road to political asylum was not an easy one. “The process was incredibly long and included multiple asylum office interviews and many delayed hearings due to the government shutdown and the interpreter not showing up,” Torrey explained.

Abraham’s case was particularly heart-wrenching because while he fought to move his case forward in the United States, his wife and children remained thousands of miles away in his home country. He had not even met one of his sons, who was born after he came to the U.S.

Despite facing roadblocks, Abraham and his team from HIRC continued to push forward with his case. In the weeks leading up to his day in court, Abraham spent long hours at the HIRC office with Clinical Instructor Cindy Zapata, who had taken over his case, and Alicia Coneys ‘19 preparing him for his day in court. Then, on April 30, 2019, all their hard work paid off when Abraham finally received the news he had waited so long to hear – he had been granted asylum.

“When he won, the first thought I had was of his family. I am so happy that he will finally be able to reunite with them in a place where they can all live safely,” said Coneys, who was in court with Abraham that day. Cases like Abraham’s remind us of the real-life impacts immigration has on families, both here in the U.S. and across the globe. Here at HIRC our goal is always to keep families together and we are so thrilled that Abraham will soon be with his family once again.

“Abraham is an incredible person. In spite of all the setbacks, he remained incredibly focused. His resilience, passion, and kind spirit are an inspiration. It’s been a true honor working with him,” said Zapata.

We would like to extend our thanks to Phil Torrey, Cindy Zapata, and Alicia Coneys for their tireless work on this case.

*Client’s name has been changed to respect his privacy

Filed in: Legal & Policy Work

Tags: Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

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