News

Shea Delay

The fate of Alimata, whose story was part of a 2005 Westword profile of immigration attorney Lilian Shea (pictured), is up in the air for at least another year.

A former high school philosophy teacher and published novelist, Alimata is from the Ivory Coast. She is of the Dioula class, and after a coup, she lost her teaching job because of this status.

Alimata fought back, but to no avail. She was beaten by soldiers and police and found herself walking into neighboring Mali, where she bought a fake passport and arranged for travel to Denver.

In the United States, Alimata gave birth; her son is a U.S. citizen. She hopes to bring her other children and her husband to the United States from their temporary home in Mali, but first she needs to be granted asylum.

Shea, Alimata's attorney, was ready to take the case to trial in September. But when the government's attorneys showed up, they insisted that they'd found a brother of Alimata's here in the United States, and that she was therefore lying about not having any family in the country. Alimata denies that the man with the same last names as her mother and father is her brother, but it'll be another year before she has the opportunity to prove it.

In several African countries women are genitally mutilated. Alimata has also been subjected to the tradition, which, in other cases, has been enough for a judge to grant an applicant asylum. However, Shea said, Alimata's fears are much worse because she still faces repercussions for being a voice for the oppressed in the uprising.

"Future persecution is a real thing for her," Shea said.

But not if Shea can prove that Alimata is here on her own, and that whoever the government claims to be Alimata's brother is actually an imposter.

It'll be another year before she has the chance. -- Luke Turf

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts