Our Stories

Asylum for a Young Woman Fleeing Rwanda

Alondra is a 28-year-old Tutsi survivor of the Rwandan genocide. She was only 14 when the genocide began. After villagers killed her parents, Alondra fled to the forest where she was found by a Hutu man from her village. Instead of killing her, he imprisoned and tortured Alondra for five months. Eventually, she was freed and began to rebuild her life in Rwanda. Years later, she was asked to testify against her torturer before the Gacada Courts, which were established to prosecute those responsible for the Rwandan genocide. In an effort to prevent her from testifying, the torturer hired a man to scare her. The man nearly killed Alondra and later admitted he had been hired to prevent her testimony. Fearing for her life, Alondra fled to the United States.

Lavanya Mahendran, an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP with no prior immigration law experience, agreed to represent Alondra in her claim for asylum before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With Public Counsel's guidance, Lavanya succeeded, allowing Alondra to remain permanently in the United States. She is now finally living free of the fear that plagued her in Rwanda and is pursuing her dream of attending college in the United States.