A Man Without a Country
At age 13, Rup Rizal found himself in a state of limbo that would characterize much of his adult life. Born and raised in Bhutan, he is an ethnic Nepali and a Bhutanese citizen because of his birth in Bhutan.
His father was detained and tortured in 1992 for resisting the Bhutanese government’s policy of “Bhutanization.” Government officials forced the family to leave the country, and they fled to Nepal. Not welcomed in Nepal, either, the Rizals lived in a refugee camp for years without official legal status.
After paying a government official for a Nepalese passport, Rizal moved to the U.S. in 2005 to attend a university in Kansas to study information technology. He completed his education in 2007 and landed a job in New York City. He married and had a son, who is a U.S. citizen.
Rizal approached The Advocates in 2009, when his employer intended to terminate his work visa. He feared returning to Bhutan because of the persecution of ethnic Nepalese and because he had no legal status there. He also believed refugees opposing ethnic Nepalese resettling abroad would target him.
After a lengthy asylum process in U.S. immigration court, Rizal’s final hearing was held in March 2013. With the judge reluctant to grant asylum, Rizal’s volunteer attorney, David Woodward, filed a motion requesting the court to administratively close the case. The Department of Homeland Security did not oppose the motion, and the court closed the case in April 2013.
Far from an ideal outcome, the administrative closure illustrates the tenuous government recognition that has followed Rizal throughout his life.
He and his wife, Shashi, are not currently eligible for a path to citizenship and do not enjoy the security afforded by permanent immigration status. However, they will be allowed to remain safely in the U.S. indefinitely.
“Despite all Rup and Shashi endured, they worked with patience, resilience, and good spirits,” Woodward said.
Rizal works as an IT consultant in Minneapolis, and Shashi works full-time as a registered nurse and is pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing. Their son, Shreyans, started kindergarten this year.
The family eagerly awaits immigration reform, hoping the results will bring their family greater security and peace of mind.