Greg Blonde's devotion to his Iraqi pro bono client had a resoundingly positive outcome—the happy reunification of a family torn apart by sectarian violence.
Our client, who Greg represented for more than three years through the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, was forced to flee Iraq in 2008 with his family as a result of sectarian violence which culminated in the death of his 9-year-old son. His wife and four surviving children were accepted by the United States as refugees in 2009—our client was not. For years, he travelled from country to country in the Middle East in an unsuccessful effort to gain the approvals necessary to reunite with his family in the United States. He eventually settled in Jordan, where he was unable to work or have any lawful residency status.
Greg confronted every hurdle in this case: the slow-moving bureaucracy that is our immigration system, challenges in communicating with his client, and fears about his client's physical and mental health. Greg developed a comprehensive advocacy approach to getting the client's refugee application reviewed and approved, when it appeared that would never happen. Advocacy efforts included outreach to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, and an alphabet soup of U.S. and international refugee agencies.
After a seemingly endless series of "brick walls," Greg finally received news in September that the client had received all required approvals/security clearances and had a plane ticket from Amman, Jordan to San Antonio, Texas. Greg fortuitously was scheduled to travel to San Antonio for work meetings and was able to have a happy, celebratory dinner with the family while there.
"This was a very long, difficult process for my client. I am proud of how strong he remained throughout, never giving up hope that his application would be approved. He faced obstacles that we frankly could not imagine, including at the end, the effects of the Syrian war on his status as a refugee," Greg said. "Spending a happy evening with this reunited family was the perfect ending to the story. I feel very lucky to work at a firm that provided me with the time and resources to work on this project."
Dawn Evans, two Columbia Law School students, several interpreters and the staff at Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project also provided support.