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Our Work

Firm Wins Decades-Long Immigration Struggle

August 12, 2021
Pro bono team secures a victory for a Sierra Leonean refugee.

A team of Latham lawyers successfully obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States for Mohamed Jagitay, after a 21-year struggle. Mr. Jagitay arrived at JFK Airport alone as a fourteen-year-old fleeing civil war in Sierra Leone in 2000, after his father was killed. Mr. Jagitay applied and was approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) – an immigration status for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected and who can’t safely return to their home country. After a waiting period, SIJS typically allows children to apply for permanent residence and ultimately to become US citizens. However, due, in part, to the post-9/11 overhaul of federal agencies responsible for immigration, Mr. Jagitay turned 21 and aged out of this status before he could obtain permanent residence. 

Following a class action lawsuit, the right to apply for permanent residence opened up for Mr. Jagitay in 2014. After a delay of three years, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied his application, claiming that his immigration records were falsified, even though they were issued by USCIS and its predecessor agency, the INS. Latham submitted a voluminous Motion to Reopen and Reconsider based on decades of evidence in Mr. Jagitay’s favor, but it was once again denied by the agency in 2019. 

Our appeal to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office was also denied. Meanwhile, Mr. Jagitay was notified that he might be placed in Immigration Court removal proceedings in order to potentially deport him back to Sierra Leone. Frustrated by the impossible situation our client had been placed in by USCIS, and with options running out, Latham filed suit on behalf of Mr. Jagitay in the Southern District of New York against USCIS, alleging, among other things, violations of the APA. Alongside our co-counsel, Legal Aid Society, we entered into settlement negotiations and successfully persuaded USCIS to re-open Mr. Jagitay’s application. After years of persistence, Mr. Jagitay’s claims were vindicated and, in June of 2021, Mr. Jagitay officially became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

Led by partner Rob Malionek and former partner Claudia Salomon, the pro bono team included associates Jemma McPherson, Sindhu Boddu, Sohom Datta, Amanda Stanzione, and Kristen Ridgway.