Attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell win asylum and release from detention for Congolese torture survivor.
First year associates, Carmela Guerrero and Mina Kim, decided to volunteer for their first asylum case after learning from Human Rights First about the case of Kayinda Mubenga an asylum seeker who had faced severe persecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of his family’s political activities. Mr. Mubenga was detained, tortured, and beaten. With the help of a family friend, Mr. Mubenga escaped prison and fled to the United States. When he reached JFK Airport, Mr. Mubenga, like many other asylum seekers who arrive without valid documents, was interrogated, handcuffed, and taken to the Wackenhut Detention Facility in Jamaica, Queens. There, Human Rights First interviewed him and accepted his case into their pro bono representation program. Carmela and Mina repeatedly traveled to the Wackenhut Detention Facility to meet with Mr. Mubenga in order to prepare his asylum case. Working under a tight schedule, Carmela and Mina compiled supporting evidence from medical and country experts in support of Mr. Mubenga’s asylum claim. The final challenge was to provide authentic documentation about Mr. Mubenga’s employment history, and verification of his father’s political activities. With time running out and their hopes waning, Carmela and Mina had to wait weeks for this documentation. Two days before the final trial, Carmela received a fax from the farm where Mr. Mubenga had worked, confirming his employment, and she received an email from a former democracy activist in the Congo, confirming the political activities of Mr. Mubenga’s father. At the final trial, with the overwhelming efforts of Carmela and Mina, Mr. Mubenga was granted asylum and he was released from the detention center. Mr. Mubenga’s story was profiled in the September 17, 2000 issue of the New York Times Magazine.