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Loeb & Loeb’s California Pro Bono Team Achieves Significant Results for Asylum Seekers

LOS ANGELES– Loeb & Loeb LLP has represented asylum seekers from across the globe, including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mexico, El Salvador, Syria and Kazakhstan, who are fleeing violence or persecution in their native countries.  Recently, the firm’s pro bono work with Public Counsel, the largest pro bono firm in the U.S., has resulted in several significant victories before the immigration courts that helped clients navigate the complex legal process to obtain safety in the United States.
Loeb & Loeb partner Laura A. Wytsma has been instrumental in organizing the pro bono efforts within the firm’s Los Angeles office on behalf of more than a dozen refugees seeking asylum in the United States.  She began her career working as a trial attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and has applied that experience toward fostering Loeb & Loeb’s longstanding commitment to protecting refugee rights and providing pro bono counsel to refugees in need. 
Since January 2013 the firm’s pro bono asylum clients have included:
Victim of Mexican Gang Violence
The firm represented a woman in Mexico who witnessed the execution of two drug cartel members.  She publicly provided information to the Mexican police concerning the murders she witnessed.  Weeks after reporting the 2009 incident to the police, she was shot nine times by a presumed cartel member.  After receiving threats at the hospital treating her, she went into hiding and then fled to the United States with her children out of fear for their safety.  Based on the significant violence that the client suffered and her credible fear of further violence or death if she were to return to Mexico, the Immigration Judge granted asylum to her and her minor child.
This pro bono case was handled by Loeb & Loeb attorney Laura A. Wytsma in conjunction with Michael Hagerty of Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project.
Syrian Couple Fleeing Regime of Bashar al-Assad
Attorneys Laura A. Wytsma and Patrick N. Downes succeeded in obtaining political asylum for a prominent Syrian actor Jihad 'Jay' Abdo and his wife, who fled the oppressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.  The pro bono case was jointly handled by Loeb & Loeb in conjunction with Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project.
Loeb & Loeb represented the couple during their interviews with the Los Angeles Asylum Office of the U. S. Customs and Immigration Service.  The government ultimately determined that the couple had a well-founded fear of future persecution based on their political opinions and dissent from the Syrian government, and granted asylum.  
Congolese Doctor Accused of Terrorism
The team also achieved an appellate victory in a pro bono asylum case on behalf of a doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who was detained and tortured by the DRC for treating civilian victims of police repression and cooperating with international human rights observers.
Loeb & Loeb’s client feared for his life in the DRC, where he was deemed a traitor and threatened with execution.  Based on the persecution that he suffered in the DRC, the Immigration Judge granted the doctor asylum in 2011 over the government’s objection.  The government appealed the decision based on its belief that the doctor was engaged in “terrorist activities” since he gave small donations to a religious-political organization in the DRC, making him ineligible for asylum in the United States.
The appeal was pending for more than two years, notwithstanding a motion to expedite due to the diagnosis of a brain tumor in the client’s young son.  The Board’s recent decision to affirm the Immigration Judge’s grant of asylum, which determined that the client did not know and should not reasonably have known that his donations would have been connected to any terrorist activity, will reinstate the client’s eligibility for asylum and enable his family to join him in the United States where his son can receive proper medical treatment.
This pro bono case was jointly handled by Loeb & Loeb attorneys Laura A. Wytsma, and Rachel Rappaport in conjunction with Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project.
Additional Asylum Matters
The firm currently represents a young woman seeking asylum in the United States based on her fear of forced marriage and persecution in Kazakhstan based on her sexual orientation.
In addition, Loeb & Loeb prevailed on appeal for a young girl who fled gang violence in her home country, and the firm is currently handling four other refugee matters.  These include a high-profile case involving a woman who fled a relationship with a political figure in the Philippines who has threatened to kill her for leaving him.  Another case involves a gay male Mexican national who was kidnapped, tortured, and raped by local police.  These noteworthy victories and pending cases showcase the firm’s strength in and commitment to pro bono asylum case work.