Family reunification enabled by Elon Law students featured on Fox news
After a ten-year separation caused by civil war in Somalia, a family was reunited on April 16 in Greensboro, N.C., aided by law students in Elon’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic. Their story was featured on Fox news stations across the country.
At Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International Airport, parents Yusuf Abdi Ali and Faduma Hersi embraced two sons and two daughters for the first time in years. The family was separated during Somalia’s civil war, which has been raging for more than two decades.
Through a four-year effort, students, faculty and staff of Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic successfully advocated for reunification visas for the children. Elon Law alumnus Hank Harrawood L’12 devoted substantial time to the case during his time with the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.
“I could not think of a family more deserving of the type of happiness that must be experienced through a family reunification of this sort,” Harrawood said. “The privilege of working at the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic continues to be a highlight of my time at Elon Law because of stories like these.”
Heather Scavone, assistant professor of law and director of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, said the case required significant advocacy.
“Law students working on the case faced significant challenges because traditional evidence in support of the petitions, such as birth certificates, had been lost or destroyed as a result of the violence in Somalia,” Scavone said. “Students, faculty and staff of the clinic were happy to be with the family at the airport to celebrate this joyful reunification.”
A WGHP Fox 8 News report on the family reunification is available here. Additional Fox news stations reporting the news include stations in Charlotte and Greenville, North Carolina, Albany, Georgia, Albany, New York and Bangor, Maine.
In interactions with Elon Law students, Faduma Hersi explained that she had escaped from a rebel attack with two of her children ten years ago and began a perilous journey through east Africa. With two of her children Hersi boarded a boat that eventually landed on the Mediterranean island of Malta. The boat nearly capsized during the journey.
The U.S. State Department welcomed Hersi and her two children to the United States as refugees in 2007 and they began their new lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Hersi immediately began to search for her husband and her nine missing children, initially not knowing whether they had escaped Somalia alive. Eventually Hersi discovered that her husband and children had escaped to Kenya and were living in extreme poverty.
Hersi sought assistance from Elon University School of Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, which worked since 2010 to advocate for reunification visas for Hersi’s husband and children to join her here in Greensboro.
During the family’s extremely lengthy separation, one of Hersi’s children died and another suffered injuries from a bomb blast resulting from a terrorist attack in East Africa.
Hersi’s husband, Yusuf Abdi Ali, and one of her sons arrived in the United States at the end of 2013, and on April 16, 2014, four of their children, Hibo, Farah, Abdighane and Ahmed were reunited with their parents and siblings.
Of the three children who remain outside the United States, efforts continue to enable two of them to join the family in the United States, while the third married and is therefore not eligible for a U.S. reunification visa.
The students, faculty and staff of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic handle more than 300 refugee and asylum cases each year, including more than 40 family reunification cases. Information about Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic is available here.
Photography by Robert Ross, Ross Photography, Greensboro, N.C.