Immigration Clinic Wins Two Asylum Cases in One Day

William & Mary Law School’s Immigration Clinic recently secured two asylum victories for Afghan refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The cases spanned two academic years, but both cases were granted by the Arlington Asylum Office on the same day in April.

Alumna Melissa Box ’23 worked on one of the cases as a student during the 2022-23 academic year, and Sarah Nagle ’24 worked on the other this year. The cases represent two of the Clinic’s 11 asylum grants to date for Afghans who were evacuated after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Both clients were resettled to the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

"We could not be happier for our clients or prouder of the Clinic students who worked tirelessly to prepare their asylum cases,” said Clinical Associate Professor of Law Stacy Kern-Scheerer, Director of Clinical Programs and of the Immigration Clinic.Melissa Box ’23 and Professor Kern-Scheerer at the Arlington Asylum Office for their client’s asylum interview in spring 2023.

During her time on the first case, Box worked with Kern-Scheerer to interview their client across many interviews over the course of many months. Box learned about her client’s career as an attorney, his passion for his work, and the danger he and his wife faced because of it.

After writing her client’s affidavit, Melissa Box researched conditions in Afghanistan relevant to his case, including the treatment of attorneys and former government employees in Afghanistan. She then worked with Professor of the Practice of Law Nicole Medved on finding and preparing country conditions evidence critical to contextualizing the client’s fear of returning to Afghanistan.

During the last week of classes in April 2023, Kern-Scheerer and Box accompanied the client and his wife to their asylum interview. After a roughly three-hour hour interview, Box delivered her closing argument to the officer. After the interview, there was nothing left to do but wait for a decision on the case.

Similarly, Nagle’s first task the following semester was to write the affidavit of a female client who had already been working with the Clinic prior to Nagle’s enrollment. Nagle worked with Kern-Scheerer to best capture the client’s personality and convey the client’s fears without having heard the client tell the story herself.

Sarah Nagle ’24 reviews her client’s case prior to the asylum Interview in fall 2023.In November 2023, after finishing all of the forms, affidavit, and evidence gathering, the Immigration Clinic submitted Nagle’s client’s asylum application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To everyone’s surprise, the client was scheduled for an asylum interview just three weeks later.

In December, Medved and Nagle accompanied the client to her asylum interview in Arlington, Virginia. After a two-hour interview, Nagle delivered her closing argument to the officer.

On Monday, April 8, the Clinic received notice that the asylum case of Nagle’s client was approved, marking the fastest decision ever received on any asylum case the Clinic has submitted.

Only a few hours later, the Clinic learned that Box’s client’s asylum case was also approved, nearly one year after the asylum interview. The client was married, and with his case approved, his wife was also automatically granted asylum.

“My experience at the William and Mary Immigration Clinic was so meaningful,” Box said. “I know that I actually had a positive impact on my clients’ lives.”

For her part, Nagle was amazed at how quickly her case turned out for the best.

“Because students work in the Clinic for at most two semesters, and USCIS usually operates on a timeline far longer than that, I’d gotten very used to the idea that I wouldn’t see the results of my work during my time in the Clinic,” Nagle said. “But because of the unusually quick turnaround for this asylum case, I got to share the news with [the client] in an email that contained a lot more enthusiasm than is usually warranted in a legal context.”

With their asylum cases granted, the clients can now live in the United States without fear of being forced to return to Afghanistan. They will be eligible to receive lawful permanent residency in one year and can apply for citizenship five years after that.

“Sarah’s and Melissa’s work, and the strong relationships that they built with the clients through their time in the Clinic, is emblematic of the incredible work that our Clinic students do here every day,” said Kern-Scheerer. “In this busy season as we wrap up the end of this academic year, we’re grateful for the opportunity to pause and celebrate these lifechanging outcomes.”

Read in more detail the clients’ stories and the students’ work that made the wins possible in the Clinic's blog post.