Human Rights Effort Blocks Deportation of Client Facing Torture in Home Country

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Following a six-year pro bono effort, an immigration court in New York blocked the deportation of our client Blerim Skoro, siding with our arguments that he faced torture or death if returned to his home country Kosovo. Litigation Daily recognized the effort, led by Pro Bono Counsel Rene Kathawala, with a “shout out” in its Litigators of the Week feature.

Skoro first arrived in the U.S. in 1994, successfully gaining asylum and eventually marrying a U.S. citizen and having two children. He then began a legal odyssey that resulted in his deportation back to Kosovo and his recruitment as a CIA operative, providing vital assistance to the U.S. government related to suspected international terrorists. His work resulted in multiple death threats, prompting him to flee Kosovo and arrive in the U.S. illegally with his family. The New York Times featured Skoro’s plight in a major 2016 feature.

After being detained by immigration authorities, Orrick jumped into the case, persuading the immigration court to issue several favorable orders and release our client on bail. The court held hearings in July and earlier this month on our substantive claims under the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits under U.S. and international law returning someone to their home country if they face torture.

On Nov. 9, 2022, the court issued a written order barring Skoro’s removal. “Mr. Kathawala literally saved my life,” Skoro said. “No one would represent me in the way I needed to be represented given the stakes until I got lucky and (he) agreed to devote his skills and time to me. My family and I are eternally grateful to Mr. Kathawala for allowing us to continue to live together in the United States where our lives will now be full.”

In addition to Rene, partner Jim McQuade assisted in the case.