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This article was originally published in Houston Chronicle on August 26, 2015. You can access the original article here:

Houston has one of the nation’s largest court backlogs, and the absence of just one judge can have a significant impact in the city’s chronically overrun immigration court system, according to an article published on Aug. 26 in the Houston Chronicle.

For an asylum-seeker, the consequences can be dire.

A Tahirih client who understands those consequences firsthand spoke with the Chronicle. The Ethiopian woman is seeking asylum because she fears an honor killing if she returns home. Below is an excerpt from the article:

    The 24-year-old, who declined to be named because she is afraid of her family, said she came to the United States on a student visa in 2012. She said her family is Muslim and from Eritrea and wanted her to marry a Sudanese man more than twice her age who had several wives when she was just 15.

    At first, she was able to persuade them to wait until she finished high school. Then she persuaded her father to allow her to complete two years of college but when he lost a lot of money, she knew she could no longer delay because the Sudanese man was wealthy. She feared death if he or her family discovered she wasn’t a virgin.

    “They would have had to harm me to keep their access to heaven,” she said, referring to her family’s strict interpretation of Islam.

    Resisting [a forced] marriage is a common cause for honor killings as is losing one’s virginity before marriage. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 such deaths occur across the world each year.

    The woman borrowed money from a friend and obtained a visa to study in New York. But six months in, the friend stopped helping her and she came to Houston where she applied for asylum.

    Since 2013, she has been waiting for a trial in [Judge Mimi] Yam’s court. A month before she and her attorney were set to argue her case last September, Yam’s court postponed the hearing to 2019. They also miscoded her case, delaying her work permit by more than a year, while she survived on the charity of strangers and lost hope.

    Samantha Del Bosque, a senior staff attorney at Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit providing pro bono legal services in Houston for immigrant women and children, said she was so concerned about her client that they arranged for her to receive psychiatric help.

    “I felt hopeless,” the woman said. “I felt like I might as well die.”

    Since recently receiving her [work] permit, she’s started work at a jewelry store and is taking classes at Houston Community College. Read more.