Student-Led Teach-In Surrounding Executive Orders on Immigration

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In addition to the clients in AUWCL’s Immigrant Justice and International Human Rights Law Clinics, many of the Clinical Program’s other clients have immigration-related issues. Even if clients did not initially came to us for immigration services, many are concerned about how the current administration’s Executive Orders (EOs) on immigration matters could affect them. In response to these concerns, a group of Clinical Program students, led by Professors Claire Donohue, Sherizaan Minwalla, Lauren Onkeles-Klein, and Andrea Parra, organized and led a Teach-In called “Advising Our Clients Regarding Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration.” Through the Teach-In, the students aimed to help their colleagues understand the implications of the EOs and how to engage with their clients about these sensitive and urgent issues.

At noon on Friday, February 17th, when most WCL students prepare to flee from school in anticipation of the weekend, 40 clinic students assembled in a lecture hall in the Warren Building for the Teach-In.  Beginning with a presentation led by the International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC), the group learned about the “Travel Ban” executive order, the subsequent court response, and policies for refugee vetting that existed prior to the EO. Next, the Immigrant Justice Clinic (IJC) taught the room about the “Interior Enforcement” EO, using skits portraying real-life situations in which clinic clients may find themselves to convey important knowledge about how these new policies could threaten the immigration status of our clients.

Following these presentations, the large group broke into smaller sections, rotating between roundtables focusing on various subjects.  In one corner of the lecture hall, the IHRLC and IJC led a “Known Your Rights” discussion addressing immigration raids and deportations.  On the other side of the classroom, the Women and the Law Clinic (WALC) spoke to groups about their experiences in airport emergency responses, inspiring conversations about how the Clinic and the greater WCL student population could continue to contribute to efforts to protect our client population.

Next door, the Domestic Violence Clinic (DVC) taught about the implications of the EOs on survivors of domestic violence and their families. On the other side of the same room, the Disability Rights Law Clinic (DRLC) taught participants about Powers of Attorney and other planning documents may be useful for clients who could face detention and/or deportation in this uncertain time.

After covering a lot of ground in two and a half hours, students ended the day with a better understanding of their roles as attorneys and how to immediately engage with clients affected by the current administration’s policies. Ultimately, students left the teach-in with the feeling that while there is much work to be done, they had gained knowledge to help them approach that work.

Professor Roberts and AUWCL Students Write Amicus Brief in Lee v. U.S. on Behalf of Three Immigration Law Organizations

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Prof. Jenny Roberts is a co-director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law

Prof. Jenny Roberts wrote an amicus brief in Lee v. US on behalf of three of three national organizations that work at the intersection of criminal and immigration law, the Immigrant Defense Project, The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Three WCL students worked on the brief: Roberto Martinez ’17 and Christina Moehrle ’17 (both in the Criminal Justice Clinic), and Aaron Garavaglia ’16.

Mr. Lee came to the US more than 20 years ago as a child, and has never returned to his country of origin, South Korea. Although  his attorney assured him that his guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute ecstasy would not have immigration consequences, that advice was incorrect and Mr. Lee’s conviction made him mandatorily deportable. The Supreme Court will hear argument on March 28th on the issue of whether Mr. Lee’s attorney’s misadvice actually caused him prejudice, a requirement for demonstrating ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The government argues that, because the evidence against Mr. Lee was strong, he cannot show prejudice.  The amicus brief discusses how, even when evidence against a non-citizen is strong, competent criminal defense counsel can negotiate with the government to find an alternative plea that does not lead to mandatory deportation, even if it leads to similar or more incarceration than the deportable conviction. The brief offers a number of stories from actual criminal cases where defense counsel successfully bargained to avoid some or all immigration consequences.

For more information on the WCL Criminal Justice Clinic, visit the webpage!