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Mayer Brown Lawyers Secure Settlement For Somali Refugee In Supreme Court Case

2 January 2008
Lawyers in the firm's Washington, D.C. and Chicago offices, together with co-counsel from the National Immigrant Justice Center, recently reached a settlement agreement with the United States government in a pro bono immigration case that was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Our client, Ahmed Ali, fled persecution in his native Somalia and entered the United States as a refugee in 1999. The following year, Mr. Ali was convicted in Wisconsin of the crime of substantial battery and served 11 months' imprisonment, most of which he spent in a work-release program. While in custody he was also diagnosed with PTSD derived from his experiences in Somalia.

In 2002, the government instituted removal proceedings against Mr. Ali on the basis of his battery conviction. Mr. Ali conceded his removability but claimed entitlement to asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"), on the ground that he would be persecuted because of his clan affiliation if returned to Somalia. The government argued that Mr. Ali's conviction constituted a "particularly serious crime" rendering him ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal, and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") agreed. The BIA also denied Mr. Ali deferral of removal under the CAT.

Mr. Ali appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed the BIA's denial of his asylum and withholding claims but remanded his CAT claim to the agency for further consideration. The Supreme Court subsequently granted our petition for certiorari to address two questions: (1) whether the Seventh Circuit erred in affirming the BIA's determination that Mr. Ali had committed a "particularly serious crime" rendering him ineligible for asylum or withholding, and (2) whether the Seventh Circuit erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review other aspects of the BIA's denial of Mr. Ali's requests for asylum and withholding relief.

Mayer Brown filed its opening merits brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Ali on November 21, 2007. The parties thereafter engaged in a series of settlement negotiations, culminating in a settlement agreement under which Mr. Ali will likely be permitted to remain in the United States in the foreseeable future. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Mr. Ali thereafter voluntarily dismissed his pending case in the Supreme Court.

The Mayer Brown team working on the Ali matter included: Georgina Fabian, Sarah Sulkowski, and our former colleagues Bob Dow and Christine Poulon.

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    Brian D. Netter
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