U.S. Immigration Law: September 2009 Archives
Today’s guest post comes from Greg Bloom at Bread for the City, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that serves the city’s low-income residents. Cross posted at the Sanctuary.
Bread for the City is best known here in Washington DC for our food pantry (which is the largest in the city). But in addition to food assistance, we also offer a comprehensive range of services to all kinds of poor and vulnerable people in our community.
As of this year, that includes victims of torture who have fled to America to escape persecution.
For years, many such people have turned to us for food and medical care. But for those who are undertaking the complicated legal process of seeking asylum in America, there is great and special need- and it isn’t currently being met in many places.
Asylum-seekers must essentially prove their claims of persecution - often times through the physical evidence present on their own bodies. This process can entail a lengthy and resource-intensive medical examination, requires extensive, legally-appropriate write-ups, and the doctors might even need to provide testimony in court. Furthermore, the doctors must have the psychological capacity to engage with deep trauma.
As a result, it can be very difficult to find doctors who are willing to play this critical role in the asylum process.With the help of some volunteer doctors and engaged board members, we’ve recently opened our medical clinic on a special monthly basis for this purpose. It’s hard work, and this week the Washington Post profiled the clinic in a special feature, profiling our Medical Clinic director, Randi Abramson, among others:
Abramson drops onto a stool, composing her thoughts before entering on a laptop the horrifying story of her most recent patient at the District nonprofit organization’s new monthly clinic for political asylum-seekers: a 24-year-old Kenyan woman who recently fled Mexico and is petitioning to stay in the United States. Raised by abusive grandparents who beat her and, at 10, subjected her to genital mutilation. Cast out by her family for choosing school over marriage, she was tricked into a prostitution ring couched as a scholarship opportunity. She ended up in a Mexican brothel, where she was held captive, beaten and knifed by a customer.
Such shocking tales of cruelty can take a toll, said Abramson, one of three doctors who have volunteered to lend expert medical credence to clients’ allegations of torture and abuse. It has been difficult to find doctors willing to take on these cases. But those who have stepped forward say they find powerful satisfaction in the opportunity to boost wrecked lives onto a path toward salvation.
“The scars, everything I found in the physical exam completely support the history she related,” Abramson said. “It’s just very rewarding to know that I will document what I heard and saw this evening and that will have a huge impact on her life.”
(Sign the petition demanding justice for Julio and Denis here.)
Julio Maldonado and his cousin Denis Calderon were victims of a bias attack in
South Northeast Philadelphia in 1996. Denis's family was the first Latino family to live in the neighborhood. Tragically, one of the attackers, Christian Saladino, fell into a coma and later died. Police assumed that he had been struck in the head by Julio , acting in self-defense as a result of a fight. However, later medical evidence showed conclusively that Christian had not sustained any outer injury that could have led to his physical reaction. He did, however, suffer from a rare preexisting blood clotting condition. It is clear from the medical evidence that it was physically impossible for Julio to have put Christian Saladino into a coma.
But due to the one-sided investigation by police and the biased prosecution by Seth Williams, now the nominee for District Attorney of Philadelphia, Julio and Denis were convicted of assault. After Christian Saladino passed away, Williams brought murder charges. Once the medical evidence came to light in the murder trial, the jury acquitted Julio and Denis of murder. Then the original trial judge who convicted Julio and Denis of assault, Judge Gregory Smith, vacated his own verdict and called for a retrial.