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The case of Ali v. Achim, which had been pending before the United States Supreme Court, was settled in 2007.  The Court dismissed the case after the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and pro bono counsel from Mayer Brown reached an agreement with the U.S. Solicitor General.

The settlement with the Solicitor General, who represents the U.S. government in cases before the Supreme Court, affords protection to Minnesota resident Ahmed Ali under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

Mr. Ali is a Somali refugee who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was denied refugee protection in the United States after being convicted of battery in a 2000 fight in Madison, Wisconsin. NIJC represented Mr. Ali through more than six years of immigration proceedings.

Mr. Ali, who now lives in Minneapolis, came to the United States with his family in 1999 fleeing ethnic conflicts in Somalia. He worked and attended classes at a Madison-area technical college. In June 2000 he was involved in a fight for which he received a state battery conviction and an 11-month sentence. While serving this sentence, Mr. Ali was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a result of witnessing warfare and the brutalization of his family as a child in Somalia.

On June 7, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security took custody of Mr. Ali, placed him in immigration detention, and initiated deportation proceedings against him. After two and a half years of administrative proceedings, the Board of Immigration Appeals found that Mr. Ali's conviction constituted a "particularly serious crime," making him ineligible for refugee protection.

When the case was appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006, Mr. Ali argued that because his conviction is not considered an aggravated felony under U.S. immigration law, the immigration court had erred in classifying it as a “particularly serious crime” without taking into account the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense. The Seventh Circuit rejected this argument, and also found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider whether the Board of Immigration Appeals erred in classifying Mr. Ali’s conviction as a “particularly serious crime.”  

Because the Seventh Circuit’s decision conflicts with other circuit courts’ decisions, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court dismissed the case in late December 2007 following the settlement granting Mr. Ali protection.

During his immigration proceedings, Mr. Ali was detained for more than three years and the government rejected requests to have the terms of his detention reviewed. In 2005 the National Immigrant Justice Center submitted a petition on Mr. Ali's behalf to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). The working group found that Mr. Ali's detention was arbitrary and violated international law. Mr. Ali was finally released from detention in December 2005.

Attorneys from the Chicago office of Mayer Brown have served as co-counsel to Mr. Ali in federal court.

Case documents:

•    Ali petition for certiorari
•    Government response
•    Ali reply brief

Seventh Circuit Opinion, 468 F.3d 462 (7th Cir. 2006).

UNWGAD Decision