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.

Students Testify About Notario Fraud

On October 17, Immigrant Justice Clinic student attorneys Rafael Hernandez and Jeannesis Rodriguez testified before the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in support of the Immigration Services Protection Act of 2016 (ISPA), which aims to prevent notario fraud in the District. Notario fraud occurs when incompetent individuals offer to assist immigrants in their immigration proceedings for a fee, but then fail to provide adequate representation, sometimes leading to loss of immigration status and deportation.  In their testimony, Hernandez and Rodriguez explained the pressing need for legislation to protect the immigrant population from fraud, and also offered several suggestions for improvement based on research into similar bills in other jurisdictions.

You can see the status of the ISPA here.

Immigrant Justice Clinic Argues Case Before Virginia Supreme Court

Jayesh Rathod, Rachel Nadas, Scott Seguin
Jayesh Rathod, Rachel Nadas, Scott Seguin

The Immigrant Justice Clinic (IJC) at American University Washington College of Law argued a case in January before the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The clinic represented Michael Z., a lawful permanent resident who accepted a plea deal that rendered him deportable. The issue before the Court involved the legal standard that a court must apply in determining whether a non-citizen was prejudiced by a trial attorney’s representation.

Third year student Rachel Nadas argued the case, which was co-supervised by Professors Jayesh Rathod and Jenny Roberts.

“Having the opportunity to present oral argument at the Supreme Court of Virginia was an incredible experience,” said Nadas. “Although I was nervous to argue before seven justices, I’m really happy with how the argument went.”

Taking on Michael’s Case

The clinic took on representation of Michael in 2013. He has been a lawful permanent resident since the age of eight. He pleaded guilty to petit larceny with a 365-day suspended sentence, and that single conviction meant that Michael was classified as an aggravated felon for immigration law purposes.

Not only did being an aggravated felon render Michael deportable, it also barred him from seeking various forms of immigration relief.  His criminal defense attorney never informed him of the severe immigration consequences of pleading guilty. He only learned that this offense made him deportable months after accepting the guilty plea when he was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At the conclusion of his immigration proceedings, Michael lost his status as a lawful permanent resident and was ordered deported.

Michael has remained in the U.S. because he was granted withholding of removal, a temporary form of immigration relief that allows him to remain in the U.S. due to fear of persecution or death if returned to Ethiopia.  Hoping that Michael could receive a more permanent form of immigration relief, the Clinic pursued a habeas corpus petition to challenge Michael’s petit larceny conviction.

Sofia Vivero’14 and Joe McGlew-Castañeda‘14, student attorneys in the Immigrant Justice Clinic in 2013-14, filed for a writ of habeas corpus with the county court.  They argued that Michael received ineffective assistance of counsel due to failure to provide advice about the deportation consequences of the guilty plea under Padilla v. Kentucky, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that requires criminal defense attorneys to advise their clients about clear deportation and potential immigration consequences of their criminal convictions.  In Michael’s case, his defense attorney had failed to meet his obligations under Padilla. The Fairfax County Circuit Court denied the habeas petition and held that Michael had not met the prejudice prong of his claim, a requirement for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.  The student attorneys filed a petition to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Virginia, arguing that the Fairfax County Circuit Court applied the incorrect legal standard for showing prejudice.

“I’m thrilled I was able to have this experience as a law student.”

In September, the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to take the full case on the merits.  IJC student attorneys in 2014-15, Alia Al-Khatib and Rachel Nadas, along with co-counsel Scott Seguin from Calderon Seguin, filed opening and reply briefs in the Supreme Court of Virginia on behalf of Michael.

“While writing the brief, it became incredibly clear how unfair such a sentence was for Michael,” said Al-Khatib. “For a minor, non-violent offense, he faced being separated from his family and the country where he had lived almost his entire life.  I was glad that the Clinic took on this case and pursued the habeas petition.”

Both Al-Khatib and Nadas say they enjoyed working on such an important and interesting case.

“I was extremely well prepared after being mooted by several AUWCL faculty members and practitioners,” said Nadas. “I’m thrilled I was able to have this experience as a law student and proud that the Clinic has done everything possible to advocate for Michael.”

The clinic co-counseled this case with Scott Seguin from the law firm Calderon Seguin.

Seguin said he is optimistic that the Virginia Supreme Court will issue a favorable opinion, which is expected sometime in February.

“It has been an absolute pleasure collaborating with the students at the Immigrant Justice Clinic on Michael’s case,” said Seguin. “The students have brought great enthusiasm and worked tirelessly trying to overturn Michael’s conviction.”

Note: This post was originally published by the AUWCL Public Relations and Marketing department on the law school’s website.

Some Things Should Never Be Normal

A few weeks ago, we sent a second delegation of Clinic students to Artesia, New Mexico. There, they represented migrant women being held with their children in the Artesia Temporary Facility for Adults with Children. If you missed our earlier posts about this project, you can see them here and here.

 David Llanes, Natalie Richman, Prof. Shana Tabak, Lindsay Fullerton, Prof. Sunita Patel, Christa Elliot, Prof. Amanda Frost, Alia Al-Khatib
David Llanes, Natalie Richman, Prof. Shana Tabak, Lindsay Fullerton, Prof. Sunita Patel, Christa Elliot, Prof. Amanda Frost, Alia Al-Khatib

The following is a guest post from Alia Al-Khatib, a 3L in our Immigrant Justice Clinic who accompanied the second delegation to Artesia.

As a clinical law student, spending a week in Artesia, New Mexico was an invaluable experience.  While it was very difficult for me to navigate working within a crisis lawyering model, I was inspired by the dedication and passion of advocates working in the detention facility.  In Artesia, advocates and lawyers are working with great urgency to get women out of detention as soon as possible.  One of the women who I met was one of the earliest arrivals to the detention facility and had been there since July.  Her and her son’s mental and physical health had deteriorated noticeably during this four-month period.  She had lost a lot of weight and was experiencing stress headaches.  Her one-and-a-half year old son had a chronic ear infection and cold.  From the beginning, the advocates and lawyers working with AILA made it clear to volunteers that the main purpose of the project to get these women released to their loved ones who were living in the United States and to shut down the facility.

Artesia is so remote that it took us 14 hours to get there from DC, including the drive through the desert in the photo above.  Immigrants have a right to counsel in their immigration proceedings, but it is logistically difficult for them to access attorneys in such a remote location.
Artesia is so remote that it took us 14 hours to get there from DC, including the drive through the desert in the photo above. Immigrants have a right to counsel in their immigration proceedings, but it is logistically difficult for them to access attorneys in such a remote location.

During my week in Artesia, I represented two women in bond hearings.  For my second bond hearing, I represented a woman from Guatemala who was in detention with her three-year-old son.  We had met the day before as I prepared her for her bond hearing.  She had many questions about the process, and she was, understandably, anxious to leave the facility.  During the bond hearing, she was clearly very nervous.  While she was giving her testimony, her three-year-old son sat in a chair next to her.  In Artesia, all court appearances and credible fear interviews are conducted in this way.  The children are in the same room as their mothers are asked to recount horrifying experiences that caused them to leave their country and flee to United States.  While advocates check with the women if they want their children to be present for the credible fear interviews, the facility does not have any accommodations for young children to be taken care of while the women are meeting with lawyers or officials.  In the middle of my client’s testimony, her three-year-old son fell asleep in his chair and began to slowly slide down the chair.  She had to pick up her son and place him on her lap as she responded to a question that the judge had asked her.

Both the judge and the DHS attorney appeared via video conference, and neither of them seemed to blink an eye as this happened.  At this point, they must be used to the conditions of hearings in Artesia.  All of the women and children who have hearings on that day are brought in to the trailer that serves as the courtroom.  The video camera only shows the person appearing for her hearing with her attorney, but surely the judge and the DHS attorney hear children screaming or laughing in the background.  They must also see the drawing books and the crayons that are given to the children during bond hearings so they are distracted while their mother gives her testimony.  The lack of response to this mother picking up her son in the middle of giving her testimony in court, while not surprising at all to me, was very troubling.  They showed no concern for the mother or her sleeping child; they did not even pause as she picked him up and held him in her arms.  They treated this scene as if it were completely normal for a testifying witness to attend to her three-year-old child in the middle of answering the judge’s questions.  Conditions similar to those in Artesia should never be treated as normal or every day.  That was what I appreciated about advocates working in Artesia- they never ceased to be outraged.  Their sole goal was to shut down the facility, and they never treated these circumstances as if they were normal or justified.

At the end of the hearing, the mother learned that she had received a $4,500 bond.  I was nervous because the day before she mentioned she was worried about getting a high bond.  When I told her, her face lit up.  She said that her husband would probably be able to pay it.  I was very happy for her.  We discussed next steps briefly, and she carried her sleeping son out of the trailer to call her husband with the good news.

The candlelight vigil was held by Somos Un Pueblo Unido, ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights, Detention Watch Network, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, NEA Southeast, and NM Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The vigil members were a mix of community members, community organizers, and attorneys.  The vigil was to end child incarceration, in particular for the mothers and children detained in Artesia who were to be transferred to a new facility in Dilley, Texas.
Students joined in a candlelight vigil held by Somos Un Pueblo Unido, ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights, Detention Watch Network, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, NEA Southeast, and NM Conference of Catholic Bishops. The vigil members were a mix of community members, community organizers, and attorneys. The vigil was to end child incarceration, in particular for the mothers and children detained in Artesia who were to be transferred to a new facility in Dilley, Texas.

Field Research and Collaboration on Domestic Workers’ Rights

The following is a guest post by Jeanna Lee, with contributions from Nirali Shah. Both students are 3Ls in WCL’s Immigrant Justice Clinic. All photos used with permission.

Nirali Shah (left) and Jeanna Lee (right)
Nirali Shah (left) and Jeanna Lee (right)

As student attorneys, we envision research happening in libraries and on computers. However, when it comes to community-based work, we need to expand our paradigm to include field-based research and personal testimony. This is especially true when researching domestic workers’ rights. Because of the hidden nature of domestic work, comprehensive and accurate research on domestic workers is difficult to find. Additionally, the concept of domestic work is fraught with the stigma of inferiority, despite its impact on the economy and individual lives. Because of this stigma, while workers were gaining rights during the New Deal and beyond, domestic workers were systematically left out. These factors present obstacles for everyone conducting the on-the-ground research desperately needed to paint a realistic picture.

Last week, my clinic partner and I attended a conference entitled “Justice in the Home: Domestic Work Past, Present, and Future” at the Barnard Center for Research on Women in New York. The motto of the conference, “It’s the Work That Makes All Other Work Possible,” explains why domestic work is so important. The conference focused on the novel research done on domestic work and domestic worker organizing and provided a forum for professionals to have a comprehensive discussion on key related issues. Throughout the conference, scholars, legal practitioners, and community organizers were able to discuss how new research altered our conceptual frameworks about labor, gender, race, and resistance. We learned a great deal about the existing groundwork in this field as well as the relevant topics of debate and areas of advancement. Most importantly, we met the activists and researchers who work in the trenches and understand the needs of domestic workers on an intimate level.

At the beginning of her Keynote Address, Ai Jen Poo (Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, MacArthur Genius Grantee, and overall super activist) asked all of the domestic workers to come on stage and introduce themselves. The domestic workers were surprised but spoke with pride. It was a touching moment.
Ai Jen Poo (Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, MacArthur Genius Grantee), inviting the domestic workers in attendance to come onstage and introduce themselves.

Legal scholarship is not only for case work and theory – it can make a difference on the ground. By collaborating with researchers and organizers in the field, we learned about the intricacies of advocating for domestic workers’ rights. We discussed potential solutions related to injustices faced by domestic workers in an academic, thought-provoking forum. Most importantly, we established a network of support and guidance at the conference that will serve as an important foundation for our research. All in all, it was a productive and eye-opening weekend. For more information about the conference, please click here.

Where Justice Hits the Road: Clinic Students In Artesia, NM

Students arrive in New Mexico to work with clients in detention in Artesia.
Students arrive in New Mexico to work with clients in detention in Artesia.

The Immigrant Justice and International Human Rights Law Clinics have sent a delegation of eight students and two faculty to New Mexico to work with detainees in the Artesia Temporary Facility for Adults with Children. This immigration detention center is a federal law enforcement training facility operated by Homeland Security that has been converted to house around 700 mothers and children.

Students on the trip include: Saba Aziz; Miatria Brown; Daniela Carrion; Nicole Diop; Andrea Gonzalez; Ashley Hoornstra; Emily McCabe; and Rachel Nadas.

Faculty leaders are Jayesh Rathod, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, and Rick Wilson, director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic.

Stay tuned for more information when the students return next week. In the meantime we have the following field reports from the students.

From Rachel Nadas:

From Saba Aziz:

This Week in Clinic

Sofia Vivero and Joseph McGlew-Castañeda, students in our Immigrant Justice Clinic, talk about securing release for a detained immigrant client last week. ICE refused to release the client to a location convenient to his family in DC, so the students picked him up at the detention facility and brought him home to his family.

The epilogue, sadly, is not so positive. The client was picked up again on a past warrant and is back in detention. The students are trying to figure out what is going on, and they continue to fight for their client.