Mayer Brown Lawyers Prevail in “Boy Soldier” Asylum Case
30 August 2008
Brian Massengill, Dana Douglas, Anne De Geest, and Alisa Harrison have won asylum for their client, K.S., a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.
K.S. was abducted at the age of nine by the rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and was forced to live and fight with them as a child soldier until UN soldiers liberated him at the age of thirteen. The UN returned K.S. to his home where he found that the rebels had killed his father and four brothers, and that his mother had been severely disabled. Fearing for his life because of retaliations against RUF soldiers by civilians and the government, he fled and tried to survive on the streets in Guinea and Senegal. At the age of seventeen, he fled on a ship not knowing where it was heading. The ship landed in North Carolina, where he was immediately taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security. Mayer Brown got involved in the case in 2006 through the National Immigrant Justice Center.
In seeking asylum, K.S. faced the government's accusation that he was ineligible because he was a former persecutor and because he had provided material support to a terrorist organization, the RUF – two serious bars to asylum. In response, the Mayer Brown team argued that K.S. should not be barred from asylum because he was forced, under threat of death, to fight with the RUF, and because he was only a child at the time.
In August of 2008, the immigration judge granted K.S. asylum, rejecting application of the persecutor and material support bars. K.S. is now living with a loving family and attends high school, where he plays on his school’s football, basketball and track teams, and was elected to the homecoming court.