Our Stories

Reuniting a Family Fleeing Torture

Clarisse reunited with her children

In the early 1990s, our client "Clarisse" made a choice that at the time seemed insignificant - to attend a meeting of an opposition party in Cameroon.  Security forces broke up the meeting and jailed her and her husband and tortured them both.  She was released from jail and advocated for her husband's release.  The government responded by threatening to kill her, so she fled to the United States, leaving her young children with their grandparents.

Clarisse arrived in Los Angeles with nothing but the clothes she was wearing, and sought asylum.  The asylum office denied her request and began efforts to deport her. She was thrust into a six year legal battle in immigration court.  During those six years, the Cameroon regime killed her husband, and tortured her parents and siblings.  Her father and mother later died because they could not access proper medical care.  Her siblings fled to other African countries where they are seeking asylum.  Clarisse's brother escaped to the Central African Republic and later to Los Angeles. 

After her parents' deaths, Clarisse lost touch with her children and did not know how to find them.  When Clarisse started working with Public Counsel (three years into her case), her eyes filled with tears as she explained that even if she could ever find her children again, after all this time she feared that they would not recognize her face.

Public Counsel was able to help find Clarisse's children, assist in relocating them to a safer area of Cameroon, and help them access essential medical care.   Last fall, seven years after Clarisse arrived in Los Angeles, Public Counsel directing attorney Judy London, and pro bono attorney Laura Wytsma of Loeb & Loeb, finally managed to convince an immigration judge to grant asylum to Clarisse.  This paved the way for her to bring her children to Los Angeles.  Public Counsel worked for an additional year to secure permission from U.S. immigration authorities for Clarisse's children to travel to the United States.  

After eight years of separation, the government finally agreed to allow Clarisse's children to travel to the United States to reunite with their mother.  However, the authorization was set to expire in 30 days.  With generous donations from friends and supporters, she scrambled to buy airplane tickets and prepare for their arrival.  The joyful reunion finally took place at Los Angeles International Airport on September 13, 2010.

Click here for a video of the reunion at LAX at our YouTube page.