Shook Pro Bono Team Gains Asylum for Nigerian Woman

Houston’s Immigration Court granted asylum for a Nigerian mother of five who fled her home country because she feared persecution and mutilation.  The court’s ruling allows her to remain in the United States with her children, one of whom was born in America.

Shook lawyers Lakshmi Achari, Michael Gray, Brice Nengsu Kenfack, Anita Liu and Andrew Long represented the woman who left Nigeria initially but returned when the village promised she would be left alone. The leadership did not live up to the agreement and made plans to kidnap and mutilate the woman.

“The case was unusual in that our client was 40-something, already married and had five children,” said Gray, an intellectual property lawyer. “We had to explain to the court that the decision-maker for the mutilation was her own mother-in-law whose power structure was at risk. The mother-in-law was determined to carry out the brutality at any cost.”

The government waived the appeal which means four of her children will be granted asylum and her husband will now be allowed to come to the United States, after a series of steps, reuniting the whole family.

“When you work on a case like this, it’s life-changing. Not only for the client but our Shook team,” said Liu, who served as the lead lawyer and is an intellectual property lawyer. “It was a very emotional moment when we got the ruling.”

Gray and a team of Shook lawyers won a similar case for another woman in 2019. In the 2023 case, Shook lawyers partnered with Mailin Maldonado at the Tahirih Social Justice Center, a national nonprofit center that serves immigrants and survivors fleeing gender-based violence.

Several of the lawyers who worked on the current case earned their law degrees from the University of Houston Law Center. Shook lawyers were featured in UHLC Alumni at Shook Law Firm Win Asylum for a Mother Fleeing Gender-Based Violence.