Asylum seeker B.C. clearly had trouble communicating the potential government persecution he faced if forced to return to his native Cameroon at a July 2018 hearing in which he represented himself. At least 36 times, the transcript reads that B.C.’s statements were “indiscernible,” meaning the court reporter couldn’t make out what B.C., who grew up speaking Pidgin English rather than Standard English, was saying.
This week Dechert partner Sozi Tulante, who took on B.C.’s case pro bono on appeal, secured a precedent-setting victory at the Third Circuit. The court’s decision not only revives B.C.’s asylum case but also lays out the principle that a noncitizen is owed “the opportunity to communicate his language proficiency on his own terms.” It’s an especially sweet victory for Tulante, the former city solicitor for Philadelphia whose family was granted asylum in the U.S. when he was eight years old and spoke no English. Tulante gave his client credit for his “courage, advocacy, and resilience” after last week’s decision.