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Asylum Denied

Asylum Denied: A Refugee’s Struggle for Safety in America

David Ngaruri Kenney
Philip G. Schrag
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Asylum Denied
    Book Description:

    Asylum Deniedis the gripping story of political refugee David Ngaruri Kenney's harrowing odyssey through the world of immigration processing in the United States. Kenney, while living in his native Kenya, led a boycott to protest his government's treatment of his fellow farmers. He was subsequently arrested and taken into the forest to be executed. This book, told by Kenney and his lawyer Philip G. Schrag from Kenney's own perspective, tells of his near-murder, imprisonment, and torture in Kenya; his remarkable escape to the United States; and the obstacle course of ordeals and proceedings he faced as U.S. government agencies sought to deport him to Kenya. A story of courage, love, perseverance, and legal strategy,Asylum Deniedbrings to life the human costs associated with our immigration laws and suggests reforms that are desperately needed to help other victims of human rights violations.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93472-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust in Europe, Adolf Hitler allowed 929 Jews to flee Germany on the cruise shipSt. Louis, bound for Cuba. He was certain that Cuba would turn them away and that the world’s democracies would also refuse to admit them, proving that Germany was not alone in its disregard for Jews.

    So far as the United States was concerned, Hitler was correct. The president of Cuba refused to let the ship land, in part because the minister of immigration had not shared the bribes he’d received for issuing visas to the refugees and...

  4. ONE The Farmers’ Boycott
    (pp. 9-40)

    After the security officers decided not to shoot me during the night in the forest, they blindfolded me again and forced me back into the van. Terrified, I lost track of time. Finally, the van stopped, and they told me to get out. The officers took me to a building and led me through it. They removed the handcuffs from my wrists and the blindfold from my face. As my eyes adjusted slowly to the light from the only bulb, I could see that I was in some kind of prison. Heavy wire links covered the window.

    They ordered me...

  5. TWO Basketball
    (pp. 41-67)

    In the water torture cell, I grew very weak from hunger and crazed from sensory deprivation. After about a week of this ordeal, two guards removed me from the cell. I could not walk. They dragged my limp, naked body by my ankles through the prison and left me lying on the floor of a small office. When I was able to adjust to the light, I saw my reflection in a mirror. My skin, which is normally very dark, had turned as white as a piece of paper.

    Two men wearing black suits, crisply ironed white shirts, and ties...

  6. THREE Temporary Safety
    (pp. 68-94)

    The airplane left Nairobi a few minutes after midnight. I had escaped from Kenya without being rearrested, but I was anxious about my first flight, and I already missed my little sister and brother. I felt as though my intestines were floating inside my abdomen. I found myself waving my arms to try to maintain my balance, though the seat belt held me firmly to my seat. Below me, as the lights of Nairobi vanished in a cloudy mist, I imagined Lucy and Njoka waving at the plane. My heart pounded, and my eyes swelled with tears.

    We headed north,...

  7. FOUR Bernie and Dave
    (pp. 95-124)

    A short woman with a round face sat behind the desk in the small law clinic office. Large, silver-rimmed glasses balanced on the bridge of her nose. She looked up at me, removed the glasses, and let them hang from their cord. She smiled, but I had the sense that my towering size frightened her. “I’m Karen Bouton, and I’m the office manager here,” she said. “Can I help you?”

    I felt the need to justify my presence in what was obviously her domain. “Is this the law clinic? Dean Bellamy suggested that I come here because I need legal...

  8. FIVE My Day in Court
    (pp. 125-171)

    For the first three months of 2001, I talked almost daily with Dave and Bernie, and I met with them every week as they addressed each of the many issues that my case presented. Bernie realized that the very first problems she and Dave needed to handle were my increasingly depressed and alienated mood and my inability or unwillingness to dredge up the details of my confinement and torture.

    As I worked with the two students, my sleep became increasingly disturbed. Since my release from prison in Kenya, I had dreaded sleep, because I often dreamed that familiar yet hostile...

  9. SIX Winning the Lottery
    (pp. 172-198)

    Once in a while, it pays to check the mail. The State Department’s notice alerted me that I was just one step away from receiving a visa that would allow me to remain permanently in the United States. Overjoyed, I called Phil to tell him the good news. He was not as encouraging as I expected him to be.

    “The situation is not so simple,” he cautioned. “You are not a typical diversity lottery winner. Come to my office tomorrow, and I’ll explain the complications and your options.”

    There were two problems, he told me the next day. I was...

  10. SEVEN The Fourth Circuit
    (pp. 199-235)

    Early in January 2003, Phil called with the awful news. The Board of Immigration Appeals had affirmed Judge Churchill’s order deporting me to Kenya.

    The decision was written by only one board member, Frederick Hess, but it was not quite a summary affirmance. Hess agreed with Judge Churchill that I should be deported because I had returned to help Njoka in 1997. Hess did not accept Judge Churchills’s view that a cessation clause of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees disqualified me from receiving asylum. But he reached the same result by relying on the U.S. Refugee Act’s...

  11. EIGHT A Cold Day in Richmond
    (pp. 236-254)

    Phil phoned me a week after the wedding. “The court has scheduled your appeal for oral argument in January,” he said.

    “That’s a good thing, right?”

    “It’s a great thing,” he responded. “The Fourth Circuit is notorious for affirming denials of asylum without listening to oral argument. The fact that they’ve scheduled an argument means that there are contentious issues of law that they want to consider. That’s why this is a very good sign.”

    A few hours later, Phil called me again. I heard despair in his voice. He had checked the court’s web site to see what other...

  12. NINE Exiled
    (pp. 255-273)

    The decision by the court of appeals was a dreadful blow to my recent marriage. Either Melissa and I would have to live separately, or she would have to give up her legal studies and move with me to another country, provided that some country would accept both of us as immigrants. We had few financial resources. We had been trying to start a venture in Madagascar that might allow us to live there, but we couldn’t afford two airplane tickets to Madagascar, and we had no savings with which to start a new life there.

    Phil explained the few...

  13. TEN The Witch Arrives
    (pp. 274-302)

    That evening, I emailed Melissa and told her what had transpired. “This is a nightmare,” she replied. “I’m coming.”

    A week later, when Melissa’s law school classes ended, she postponed her fall exams and bought her ticket to Tanzania. I did not tell Wash that she was coming.

    On the morning of the day she was scheduled to arrive, Wash sat in the courtyard of the compound, watching people walk past, while I ate breakfast inside. I saw a middle-aged lady approach Wash. “Where is the tall man?” she asked.

    “Who needs him?” Wash responded.

    “I do,” the woman said....

  14. The Lawyer’s Epilogue
    (pp. 303-324)

    I have practiced law for forty years. For more than thirty of those years, I have directed a law school clinic, first at Columbia University and then, since 1981, at Georgetown.¹ My students and I have won and lost many cases. Several decisions that went against my clients seemed unjust, but I don’t think that any unsuccessful case has ever made me as angry, or as ashamed of my country’s legal system, as the case that became known asNgarurih v. Ashcroft.

    What distressed me so much about how our immigration system treated Jeff was that he had a stronger...

  15. The Client’s Epilogue
    (pp. 325-328)

    Back in Kenya, I knew many women who died. Some were close relatives; others were friends with whom I grew up or even dated. Each year, two or three never came home from the hospital. They died alone, tended by impersonal doctors, without husbands or family members at their sides.

    On a sunny September afternoon, Lisa Lerman and I sat with Melissa in a darkened hospital room in Washington, D.C. I was frightened. The idea of driving back home without Melissa was so vivid to me that I had called Lisa, Phil’s wife, the night before and asked her to...

    (pp. 329-330)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 331-346)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 347-352)