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The Fierce Urgency of Now

Asylum claims often take years to resolve. In California, the average immigration case takes 674 days to complete. That figure is even higher in cases in which relief is granted. Despite significant scrutiny from the media and U.S. circuit courts in the past few years, the situation has not improved. Some respond that this is simply how our justice system works. But this article argues that if this is how the system works, we need to stop calling it just.

Three separate asylum seekers are profiled as they navigate our arduous legal system to avoid the threat of violence, persecution and death in their native countries. While each individual was eventually granted political asylum in the United States, delays of five or more years, extended separation from their families and prolonged emotional trauma give life to the expression “justice delayed is justice denied.”

This article was published on April 11, 2013 as an online feature in The National Law Journal. Permission for reprint has been granted.

Laura A. Wytsma is an intellectual property partner in the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb, where she is actively involved in pro bono litigation. She has represented more than a dozen refugees seeking asylum from China, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico, Russia and Syria in immigration court, the U.S. courts of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.