Pro-Democracy, Catholic Activist from the DRC Needs Representation in His Asylum Trial
Michel* is a 40-year-old man who fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after uniformed police officers came to his home in the middle of the night and arrested and beat Michel and raped his wife in front of their children. The police targeted Michel and his wife because they are Catholic -- the Catholic Church being one of the leading forces trying to oust DRC’s then-President and dictator Joseph Kabila-- and because he was a member of a pro-democracy movement in DRC. Michel’s hearing on his asylum application is scheduled for August 28, but the immigration judge has indicated that she would grant a continuance to allow a pro bono attorney more time to prepare.
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Michel is a 40-year-old man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Last November, a group of about 5 uniformed police officers came to Michel’s home where he lived with his wife and four children. The police told Michel he is “one of those guys creating trouble in the country,” telling the population to march against the government. They interrogated Michel as to his religion and where he worked, to which Michel responded that is Catholic and did not currently have a job but wrote for the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is protesting against the DRC’s dictator President Kabila, and DRC police have been attacking protestors. Michel was also a member of an association called LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement, or “Fight for Change” in English), a well-known pro-democracy movement in DRC. LUCHA has been \one of the main groups calling out for President Kabila to step down.
The police then beat Michel and raped his wife. The police threatened them to leave the country or else they would be killed by the President’s people. That same night, Michel and his family immediately left their apartment and went into hiding in another province. A few days later, Michel and his wife fled the country, leaving their children behind to be cared for by a family member.
Michel and his wife presented themselves at the U.S. border in April. They each passed their credible fear interviews, and their stories are consistent. Michel’s hearing on his asylum application is scheduled for August 28, but the immigration judge indicated that if Michel can secure a pro bono attorney to represent him, she will entertain a motion for a continuance to allow the attorney to prepare for the trial. This case presents an excellent opportunity to gain trial experience quickly.