Immigration Equality Honors Ropes & Gray With Safe Haven Award

Rankings & Awards
March 21, 2011

For the second year in a row, Ropes & Gray was one of five national law firms recognized with Immigration Equality’s Safe Haven Award for pro bono work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people seeking political asylum in the United States.

Chosen from almost 40 top law firms in Immigration Equality’s program, Ropes & Gray was honored for its work representing a bisexual, married HIV-positive man from Ghana who was in immigration court after prosecutors extradited him to the U.S. as part of an alleged international criminal conspiracy.

When prosecutors dropped all charges against the man almost a year later, they turned him over to immigration custody. Without a lawyer, he was brought before one of the most conservative immigration judges in New York. At the time, the client was so sick due to complications from AIDS that he could not understand the removal proceedings and asked to be returned to Ghana so that he could die in peace. The judge ordered him deported.

While awaiting deportation, he was cared for at St. Vincent's Hospital, and a hospital social worker contacted Immigration Equality for help. The organization was able to reopen his case; Michael Rueckheim at Ropes & Gray secured his release on bond and found him housing. After he was released from immigration detention his health improved dramatically, and his attorneys proved that he was eligible for asylum.

In addition to prevailing on this extremely challenging case, Ropes & Gray accepted more than a dozen new asylum cases in 2010. 

“Each firm went above and beyond to provide top-notch legal counsel to people fleeing for their lives,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “This is literally lifesaving work, and on behalf of all of our clients, we are proud to honor these law firms.”

The five firms will be honored at the organization’s annual Safe Haven Awards in New York City on May 31.