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Congolese refugees reunite with family at PTI Airport

For the second time in a month, survivors from a war-torn region of the world arrived in Greensboro to reconnect with loved ones after receiving help from Elon Law's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

Hugs. Smiles. Tears. Handshakes. All in the first 60 seconds.

Four young people - survivors of a violent conflict in their home nation of The Democatic Republic of the Congo - arrived in Greensboro on May 7, 2019, for a reunion with their grandmother, uncle, and cousins, relatives that in a few instances they haven’t seen for the better part of a decade.

Chantal Diamant, Esperance Muhawe, Pacifique Mushoshi and Aline Mwamikazi were greeted in Piedmont Triad International Airport by a throng of family, plus students, alumni and staff involved with Elon Law's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic. The clinic has worked with family members for several years to secure their refugee status. 

"I'm very happy. I'm very grateful," Marcelline Nyiramagaju, the grandmother of the four new arrivals, said through the help of a relative who translated her French. "I'm really thankful for people who helped me with asylum and for bringing my people here."

The reunification officially closes out a saga that started when Marcelline's own son, Felix, arrived in the United States as a refugee. When Marcelline came to the United States for a visit, she filed for asylum through the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

Once in the United States with asylum status, Marcelline Nyiramagaju sought additional help reuniting with her other children and her orphaned grandchildren. Marcelline Nyiramagaju had formally adopted her grandchildren when their own parents - Marcelline's children and Felix's siblings - were murdered in ethnic violence.

Marcelline Nyiramagaju's biological children joined her in 2016. Her grandchildren were met with a large crowd at PTI earlier this month.

The reunification brought smiles and tears to Elon Law students and alumni at the airport. Elon Law staff even live streamed the reunification on their phones to Heather Scavone, the clinic's former director now working as a lawyer for the federal government in Washington.

"It's a little surreal and absolutely wonderful," Suzi Haynes L'14, who was actively involved in the case during her Elon Law studies, said as the family gathered for photos inside the airport's baggage claim. "This is what makes law school worth it - the clinical aspect of helping people."

Since 2011, Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic has served upward of 2,000 individuals as they sought refugee and asylum status because of war and persecution in their home nations. The clinic assisted another family on May 1 when a husband and wife from the Congo reunited after three years apart.

"This family had been separated for over a decade," said Katherine Reynolds, interim director of the immigration clinic, "and it's incredible that they're all reunited."


About Elon Law:

Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on learning by doing, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.


Eric Townsend,
5/14/2019 11:30 AM