April 01. 2024

Mayer Brown leads coalition in securing asylum for nearly 150 Afghan students from Asian University for Women


Mayer Brown led a coalition of 20 law firms and corporate legal departments in securing asylum for nearly 150 Afghan students of the Asian University for Women (AUW), based in Bangladesh.

In August 2021, Mayer Brown helped evacuate the group of AUW students who were studying in Afghanistan just as the government in Kabul was collapsing, following the withdrawal of the last American service members in the region.

Once the students safely fled their war-torn country and arrived in the US, Mayer Brown formed a coalition of more than 20 major law firms and corporate legal departments to help the cohort of students apply for asylum so they could continue their studies and remain in the US long-term. Mayer Brown and the coalition partnered with the Tahirih Justice Center, which provided mentorship and support for the asylum cases.

Mayer Brown took on 30 of the asylum applications. Teams of more than 100 Mayer Brown lawyers, paralegals, and business services staff in almost every US office devoted more than 9,000 hours of pro bono services to these cases.

Despite numerous challenges along the way, including contending with an under-resourced US Customs and Immigration Service, on March 26, 2024, the coalition finally secured asylum for all of the students.

“This is one of the largest pro bono efforts that the firm has ever undertaken,” said Mayer Brown’s Global Director of Pro Bono Marcia Tavares Maack. “Every lawyer we asked for help went above and beyond to ensure these women would have an opportunity to realize their dreams.”

“I am proud of the work we have achieved in this matter,” said Mayer Brown partner Marcia Goodman who led the evacuation effort. “Our team attained success for the same reasons they often do in pro bono matters – devotion to the case and clients, hard work, cooperative relations with co-counsel, and a refusal to give up.”

Mayer Brown and some of the coalition members are now helping the students apply for Adjustment of Status so that they can obtain Legal Permanent Residency in the US.


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