In December 2013, Quinn Emanuel obtained a grant of asylum for a pro bono client introduced to Quinn Emanuel by the New York Asylum Office. The client, an ethnic Tibetan Buddhist, was born and raised in Nepal. While studying abroad as a college student, the client became politically and religiously active. Indeed, when he returned to Nepal during breaks from school, the client acted as a journalist and engaged in a variety of political activities that (1) he hoped would lead to a more democratic and pluralistic Nepal, and (2) protested Chinese control of, and the impact of Chinese policies on, Tibet. The client’s political activities included, among other things, assisting the U.S. Embassy in Nepal in monitoring the treatment of Tibetans in that country as part of President Bush’s “Freedom Agenda.” As a direct result of his activism, the client was repeatedly detained and tortured by both the police forces loyal to the government of Nepal and the Maoist guerrillas who waged a ten-year civil war in Nepal. The client came to the United States in 2009. During his time in the United States, the client sought care for the serious mental and emotional distress resulting from the torture he suffered. It was during his treatment that he learned that he could try to seek asylum here.
The complication of seeking asylum, however, was that immigration law generally requires that an asylum application be filed within one year of the applicant’s arrival in the United States. By the time client’s application was filed, it was late by nearly three years.
There is limited case-law addressing when an exception to the filing deadline should be granted. Quinn Emanuel crafted an argument that an exception to the statutory deadline was warranted based on the totality of the circumstances. Due to the end of civil war and other recent political developments in Nepal, Quinn Emanuel also had to frame the historical conditions in Nepal to make it difficult for the Government to claim that the country conditions in Nepal had changed in a way that would negate client’s asylum eligibility.