Martha was a political activist who was persecuted by the Zimbabwean government and the majority party, the ZANU-PF, for her activism and engagement in peaceful political activities. Her home was burned down, and she and various members of her family were physically assaulted and tortured. In 2014, she traveled to the U.S. for her education and when she returned she was questioned by the ZANU-PF about her reasons for visiting the U.S. and sexually assaulted by several ZANU-PF members. She was able to come to the U.S for a school graduation and did not leave the U.S. after learning that her husband had been threatened by the SANU-PF and told that if she returned, they would kill her.
Martha came to HRI in late 2015 for help with asylum case. Due to huge backlogs in the system, after an asylum case was filed, it then took around 2-3 years for the case to be scheduled for an interview. However, after arriving in the U.S., Martha found out that she had urgent medical issues which she needed to address, and her pro bono attorney advocated for her asylum case to be expedited in late 2016.
In addition, her children were being greatly affected by the draught in Zimbabwe and lost their main caretaker when she passed away after Martha left. Martha was distraught at being separated from her children and suffered from depression for much of the time we assisted her. We were grateful for the hard work of her pro bono attorney who crafted a compelling request for her case to be expedited, which the government approved.
Martha’s asylum interview was held in 2017, and she found out she had been granted asylum a few weeks later! Once Martha’s case was approved, HRI’s asylum program immediately filed relative petitions so that her husband and children could join her in the United States.
Matha’s pro bono attorney also assisted HRI’s asylum program with successfully requesting that these petitions be expedited as well.
We are thrilled to say that by the end of 2017, Martha was reunited with her family! There were many tears of joy in our office upon seeing Martha and her family finally together again living safely in the United States and we are tremendously excited to see what the future holds for all of them.
– Zainab Ellis, HRI’s Social Services Director