Associate Paul Koppel has helped to secure permanent resident status under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) for a client whose political asylum application had been pending for more than a decade. As a teenager in Haiti, the client was a neighborhood activist and known as a supporter of Jean Bertrand Aristide, which subjected him to hostility and threats from former Duvalier supporters. When the Haitian military overthrew Aristide in September 1991, the client, then 19, was warned that his life was in danger. He fled Haiti in a boat with about three dozen others, leaving behind his parents and siblings, and was picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The firm filed an asylum application for the client in 1992 that was still pending in 1999, when we helped him apply for permanent resident status under the HRIFA, which was enacted to make it easier for Haitian refugees to remain in the United States legally. As part of the application process, the client was called before the INS to demonstrate that he was of good moral character and met the statutory requirements for permanent resident status adjustment. In response to an INS request, Koppel, with the assistance of former associates Douglas Gray and Alexandra Guest, prepared a supplement to the client’s application and helped him obtain alternate forms of documentation to replace material lost during and after his flight from Haiti.
Koppel then accompanied the client to Boston for his INS interview — an experience that would be intimidating for most people, but potentially overwhelming for an asylum applicant with grave fears about returning to his home country. Koppel’s preparation of the client enabled him to respond effectively and persuasively, which resulted in the grant of permanent resident status on the spot. Congratulations to Koppel, as well as the many alumni who worked on the client’s case over the years.