December 14, 2022

Nigerian chess prodigy, 12, granted asylum in the United States


Matt Ingber, Justin Perkins and Christopher Mikesh are featured in this article.

Matthew Ingber, part of the legal team that worked pro bono on the Adewumi family’s asylum case, said he first learned about Tani’s situation in the summer of 2021.

“It was such a compelling story,” said Ingber, a managing partner at Mayer Brown’s New York office.

Ingber assembled a team from Mayer Brown to work on the case, including lawyers Justin Perkins and Christopher Mikesh.

“This is not just a story about 8-year-old Tani,” Mikesh said. “It’s also a story about a family who came to the United States with very little and did everything they possibly could to make a life for themselves here.”

“It’s truly inspiring what the family has accomplished,” he added. “To even be a small part of their story is really an honor for us.”

Working alongside attorney Carolina Curbelo, who was already representing the Adewumi family, Mayer Brown became formally involved in the case in early 2022.

The family applied for asylum in 2019 and had an upcoming hearing date. Still, “there was a lot of uncertainty going into this process,” Mikesh said.

“There is always risk associated with any trial,” echoed Ingber, adding that deportation is “always a risk when you’re dealing in these types of asylum cases.”

Ahead of the formal immigration hearing, the lawyers aimed to explore alternative options that would “help the family speed up the process and ensure that they got a favorable outcome,” Mikesh said. “What we thought would be a better idea is to try to convince the government that this case really was open-and-shut, and there was no real question that our clients deserved asylum.”

“They’re active members of their church, of their community, of their school. They really are a paradigm case for granting asylum,” Ingber explained. “They are contributing in ways that should make us all feel very proud to have them as part of our country.”

“It is, in effect, their license to remain in the United States. It allows them to travel internationally,” Ingber said. “It’s their path to the freedom that they wanted.”

“It’s impossible to overstate how impactful this was for the family,” he said. “They don’t feel entitled to it; they feel privileged to be here.”

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