Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Angelina Jolie and Fulbright & Jaworski make a dream come true

This New York Times story out of Houston has a lot of press appeal, but it is just the tip of the iceberg of all the great pro bono asylum and immigration work being done by lawyers across the country.

HOUSTON, April 10 — Young Zheng could not wish for a better 18th birthday present: a green card. A judge ruled Friday that Young Zheng, 17, had been abandoned by his father in China, allowing him to seek residency in the United States. Not the counterfeit kind given to him by Chinese smugglers known as snakeheads before they put him on a plane to the United States. A real one, so he can get out of federal custody, stave off deportation, finish school and chase his dream of becoming a biologist.

It now appears that Young, who once bashed himself against a wall to avoid being sent back to China, has won a three-year legal struggle over his immigration status, putting him on the path to American citizenship — if keeping him in the shadows indefinitely for his own safety. Young foresees a normal life someday, he said in an interview on Sunday under condition that his whereabouts be withheld and that photographs not reveal his features. "I look so different than when I came here," he said, running a hand through his spiky black hair. Anyway, he said, "when I am 40 or 50, the smugglers already pass away." They had already threatened family members, he said.

After a federal judge in Houston forced the government in February to allow the case to be heard in family court, a Texas family court judge ruled Friday that Young had been neglected and abandoned by his father in China.

With that ruling, Young's lawyer, John Sullivan III — a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski who at the urging of the actress Angelina Jolie had mobilized a legal team to work on this and other child refugee cases pro bono — filed immigration papers on Monday to grant Young residency under the federal Special Immigrant Juvenile Status law.

Nice going, Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Jolie.


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