The University of California Press has just published Asylum Denied: A Refugee’s Struggle for Safety in America, by David Ngaruri Kenney, a former client of the Center for Applied Legal Studies (Georgetown’s political asylum clinic) and his lawyer, Georgetown University Law Professor Philip G. Schrag, the clinic’s director.
The book explores U.S.immigration law and its administration (particularly but not exclusively) asylum adjudication, through Kenney’s first-person narration of his Kafkaesque encounters with the entire panoply of American immigration bureaucracies and courts. Kenney was a poor farmer in Kenya who led a boycott to protest certain agricultural policies of the country’s strongman President, Daniel arap Moi. For this act of defiance, Kenney was nearly executed, tortured, and imprisoned. After an amazing escape to the United States, he applied for asylum, but his application was rejected at every level, and he was finally forced to return to Africa, where he was once again nearly murdered.
"This is a fabulous book-a love story, a law story, a struggle against death, a battle for justice, and much more. I urge you to read it."–Bruce Ackerman, Yale University
"Asylum Denied is at once a page-turner, a penetrating critique of the U.S. asylum system, and an exquisite exploration of humanity and politics, of emotion and law, of tension and release. It has the same narrative power that distinguished Jonathan Harr's A Civil Action."–Hiroshi Motomura, University of North Carolina
"In Asylum Denied, David Kenney and Philip Schrag bring us a deeper understanding of the vagaries of our asylum process by telling David's riveting story. What society wouldn't be enriched by such stoic, courageous and principled strivers as Kenney? The more we learn of the lives and yearnings of such people, the closer we will be to an asylum process worthy of our values."–Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Publisher’s Weekly (March 24, 2008): Astonishing in its power to move and inform,
this fluent first-person narrative, a collaboration between a young Kenyan
political refugee, Kenney, and his stalwart American attorney, Schrag, depicts
the flaws and corruption at the heart of the U.S. asylum process. Kenney fled Kenya in 1995 after being arrested and nearly
executed for leading a peaceful protest against the government's treatment of
his fellow tea farmers; he survived torture and escaped to
America where he was plunged into an incomprehensible and hostile immigration system. Kenney and Schrag's dealings with the Department of Homeland Security and federal immigration courts reveal a system that is "disquietingly random." Applicants are victims of "refugee roulette," their fates largely dependent on the sympathies of the government officials who hear their cases. Schrag's recommendations to make the system more consistent and compassionate give the book-and Kenney's heartbreaking story-an added sense of purpose and real practical potential. Kenya's recent political implosion lends this book added topical relevance, but its core concerns for justice and reform remain directed at American society, especially (though not only) its byzantine asylum system.
The book is available in book stores and on Amazon.com.