The good news came Oct. 31: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Aziz Alfassa for permanent residency in the United States, putting to rest the 20-year-old's fears of deportation to his native Togo in West African, where he says he would have feared for his life. (News Hits wrote about his plight just two days before.)
"We are grateful that they decided to give this young man a chance at a new life here in the United States," says his attorney, David Koelsch, director of the Immigration Law Clinic at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
Koelsch got the news in a phone call from an official at the Detroit field office. "Aziz is going to be a fine citizen of our great country," Koelsch says.
The approval of Alfassa's petition entitles him to federal financial aid to continue his college education, and he can apply for citizenship in five years.
Alfassa was born in Togo, where his father was an adviser to a political party that opposed the government. After his father went into hiding because of political persecution, the Togolese government turned its attention to then 14-year-old Alfassa, who says police detained and beat him, trying to gain information on his father's whereabouts. Alfassa came to Michigan and when his tourist visa ran out, he stayed, turning to Koelsch — then legal director at Freedom house.
Alfassa became a ward of the Wayne County Juvenile Court in 2004 since his mother was dead and his father's location was unknown. Then Koelsch helped him file for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a process by which undocumented children and teens can gain residency if they have been abused, orphaned or abandoned and are wards of the court.
Aflassa waited, his petition taking much longer than usual to gain approval. As December and his 21st birthday approached, and with it the expiration of his SIJS petition he became increasingly fearful that he'd be forced to return to his homeland.
Then on Halloween, he got the news.
His reaction? "All right!"News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]