Clinic Student Represents Client from Home Country

06.29.10

Michel Bamani ('11)
Michel Bamani ('11)

This year, Asylum and Human Rights Clinic student Michel Bamani is representing a client from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an affirmative asylum action.  The case has personal significance for Michel because he is from the DRC himself and came to the United States after his family faced persecution.

Michel’s client was persecuted for her affiliation with a political party.  She was arrested, beaten, and repeatedly jailed.  The client is currently awaiting trial in Immigration Court.

Back in the DRC, Michel’s mother was persecuted for her Rwandan heritage.   Michel’s family fled the DRC when he was 13 and lived in a refugee camp in Benin for six months before obtaining refugee status.  The refugee status cleared their way to the United States, where the family settled in Portland, Maine.  Michel became a US citizen five years later.

 “I can relate to the client’s pain based on my own experience and I know of the horrible things that happen in the Congo,” said Michel.  “I do not find her story at all hard to believe.  But I can also be objective because I am not shocked.” 

“Most of our clients have experienced detention, torture and even seen family members killed as a result of their ethnicity, gender or political opinions,” said Michel’s clinic supervisor, Professor Judi Diamond.  “Their stories are very difficult to tell.  Courts know so little about the conditions in many countries, and one of our biggest challenges is finding an expert witness to educate the courts.  Michel did an incredible job identifying such an expert and securing an expert affidavit that will be crucial to our case.”

Michel has always been interested in the law due to his past, and as a junior at Bowdoin College, he helped with the University of Maine’s law school clinic.  Michel spent last summer working in a ME firm doing some business law but because of his clinic work an interest in litigation has also surfaced.  “Whatever path I take,” said Michel, “I will make pro bono immigration litigation part of my practice as a lawyer.  My experience in the asylum clinic has been unforgettable.”