Georgia Law Appellate Clinic team briefs, argues, wins Convention Against Torture case before Second Circuit in New York

One week after oral arguments put forward by students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today ruled on behalf of a Clinic client, whose immigration case involved the 1984 Convention Against Torture, an international treaty that the United States joined in 1994.

The client, a gay transgender rights advocate from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and the petitioner in Case No. 20-1693, Santiaguez v. Garland, seeks deferral of removal pursuant to the treaty’s provisions respecting non-refoulement, or non-return. Specifically, the client asks not to be sent back to his home country, where his brother, also gay, recently was killed due to sexual orientation.

Georgia Law 3L Noah Nix (pictured above) argued on behalf of the client last week at the Second Circuit’s New York courthouse. He challenged prior rulings in the case, in which both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals had agreed that no Mexican public official would likely acquiesce to the Clinic’s client being tortured if he returned. The Board of Immigration Appeals also had found that the Immigration Judge did not violate the client’s due process rights when refusing to allow a country conditions expert to testify at the client’s merits hearing.

Today the Second Circuit panel, composed of Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston, Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr., and Judge Eunice C. Lee, ruled on behalf of the Clinic’s client. Specifically, reasoning that the agency had not properly considered the client’s evidence, the panel issued an order vacating the agency’s decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Assisting in brief-writing in the case were two Georgia Law students who have since graduated, Jared Allen and Olivia Hunter. The team worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director.

Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic assists client in winning bid for asylum

A client of the Community Health Law Partnership Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law was recently granted asylum, a status that provides permanent protection to noncitizens fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in particular social groups. 

The Clinic’s client had fled to the United States alone as a 16-year-old, after facing death threats and physical violence in Guatemala, and had requested asylum at the U.S. border. The Asylum Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services initially interviewed the client in 2018. (photo credit) However, a torrent of subsequent administrative decisions upended longstanding asylum policies, leaving his fate in limbo. 

The Community HeLP Clinic reactivated the case early this year. It successfully argued that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to control persecution against the client by private actors. As a result of the asylum grant, the client no longer faces deportation and can focus on rebuilding his life in the United States.

The Clinic’s Staff Attorney, Kristen Shepherd, handled the initial presentation of the case before the Asylum Office. Navroz N. Tharani, who completed his Georgia Law JD in May 2022, wrote the brief, supervised by Shepherd and by Clinic Director Jason Cade, who is Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning and J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law. Eddy Atallah, a member of the JD Class of 2021, assisted with earlier research.

Immigrants and rights of free speech, free exercise of religion topic of Georgia Law Review symposium March 18

“Immigrants and the First Amendment: Defining the Borders of Noncitizen Free Speech and Free Exercise Claims” is the title of this year’s annual day-long symposium of the Georgia Law Review, to be held Friday, March 18, in hybrid format at the University of Georgia School of Law. Featured will be a keynote by immigrant activist Ravi Ragbir, the plaintiff in a high-profile federal lawsuit alleging retaliation for activism.

Here’s the concept note:

“Immigration law, as well as immigrant activism, are intersecting with the First Amendment in new and surprising ways. This year’s Georgia Law Review Symposium will bring together a diverse set of voices to discuss these exciting new crossovers, providing a forum to explore the nuances of the First Amendment’s scope as applied to immigrants, immigrant advocates, and potential immigrants outside of the country. This is an area of law that is becoming increasingly more topical, and many questions that arise from these areas remain unanswered or ambiguous.”

Details and registration here for the conference, which will take place in-person in the Larry Walker Room on the 4th floor of Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk Hall, and which also welcomes online attendees.

Following opening remarks at 9 a.m., panels will proceed as follows:

9:10-10:35 a.m., “Immigrant Speech and Government Retaliation”

“Despite being entitled to First Amendment rights, immigrants, particularly those without documentation, are highly vulnerable to government suppression of, or retaliation against, their exercise of free speech rights. Recent or ongoing cases in this area include Oldaker v. Giles in the Middle District of Georgia, which concerns first amendment claims brought on behalf of women alleging retaliation for medical abuse at an immigration detention center; and Ragbir v. Homan, which concerns the government’s retaliatory deportation of prominent immigrant rights activists.”

Speaking within that theme on this first panel of the morning will be: Alina Das, Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law; Charles H. Kuck, Managing Partner of Kuck Baxter LLC, an immigration law firm in Atlanta, and an Adjunct Professor at Emory University School of Law; Daniel I. Morales, Associate Professor of Law and George A. Butler Research Professor, University of Houston Law Center; and Clare R. Norins, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the First Amendment Clinic at Georgia Law. Moderating will be Jason A. Cade, who is Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, Experiential Learning and J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law, and Community Health Law Partnership Clinic Director at Georgia Law.

10:35 a.m.-12 noon, “Back to the Future: Immigrant Speech Rights Yesterday and Tomorrow”

“From John Lennon to Charlie Chaplin to many less famous immigrants, United States immigration history is riddled with deportation or exclusion decisions based on immigrants’ expression. Looking to the future, it is possible that constitutional free speech rights are best shored up by legislative and administrative solutions.”

Speaking within that theme on this last morning panel will be: Michael Kagan, Joyce Mack Professor of Law and Director of the Immigration Clinic at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada-Las Vegas; Jennifer Koh, Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Nootbaar Institute for Law at the Caruso School of Law, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California; Julia Rose Kraut, author of Threat of Dissent: A History of Ideological Exclusion and Deportation in the United States (Harvard University Press 2020); and Gregory P. Magarian, Thomas and Karole Green Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. Moderating will be Jonathan Peters, Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications, who also holds a courtesy appointment on the Georgia Law faculty.

1-2:20 p.m., “The First Amendment’s Limits Abroad After Trump v. Hawaii: Free Exercise, Executive Power, and Justiciability”

“Trump v. Hawaii is the most recent high-profile iteration of immigration actions allegedly taken on the basis of religion. In addition to exploring first amendment issues respecting the religion of potential migrants, this panel will also cover issues relating to the differences in executive power as it pertains to potential immigrants as opposed to immigrants already on U.S. soil, as well as the difficulties associated with immigrants vindicating asserted constitutional rights from abroad.”

Speaking within that theme on this afternoon panel will be: Christopher Lund, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, Michigan; Zachary Price, Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law; and Shalini Bhargava Ray, Associate Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law. Moderating will be Nathan S. Chapman, Pope F. Brock Associate Professor in Professional Responsibility at Georgia Law.

2:20-3:15 p.m., “Keynote Address” by Ravi Ragbir, followed by a closing reception.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic secures final relief for client in case invoking Convention Against Torture

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals has granted relief to the petitioner in Arellano Herrera, a case on which the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law has worked for over two years.

As detailed in prior posts here and here, in September 2020, Georgia Law students in the Clinic briefed and argued the case, Arellano Herrera v. Barr, to a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Their argument turned on the non-refoulement, or non-return, obligations the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, or CAT. Two months later, the appellate court held that the Board of Immigration Appeals incorrectly had applied the clear error standard when reversing the Immigration Judge’s decision to grant petitioner’s request for withholding of removal.

Subsequently, on remand before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Clinic argued that the Immigration Judge did not clearly err in findings key to the CAT-based claim:

  • 1st, that if returned to Mexico, the petitioner would more likely than not be tortured by cartel members, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials; and
  • 2d, it would be unreasonable to expect the petitioner to relocate within Mexico in order to avoid that torture.

A Board of Immigration Appeals panel has just agreed, thus reinstating the Immigration Judge’s original decision and, as a result, finally affording the petitioner the relief she long had sought.

The Clinic team included 3 students, since graduated from Georgia Law: Jason N. Sigalos, Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV. They worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director, and Anna White Howard, the Clinic’s Counselor in Residence.

Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic and Project South release report on harms from spike in state-federal jailhouse immigration enforcement

Negative effects of three Southern states’ collaboration with federal immigration officials are detailed in a report just published by the Community Health Law Partnership here at the University of Georgia School of Law and Project South, a 35-year-old, Atlanta-based nongovernmental organization.

Entitled Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement, the 52-page report focuses on “ICE holds” – the nonbinding request, placed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that local jails detain certain detainees. Based on records obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the report reveals that between fiscal years 2016 and 2018:

  • The number of ICE holds nearly quadrupled in Georgia, nearly tripled in South Carolina, and doubled in North Carolina.
  • On average, persons subject to ICE holds were held more than two weeks in Georgia, about three weeks in South Carolina, and more than a month in North Carolina.
  • In at least half of these more than 18,000 detainer cases, the person named was taken into ICE custody.
  • At least 189 persons, including at least 29 U.S. citizens, were erroneously detained.

Co-authors of the report were our Clinic’s Director, Georgia Law Professor Jason A. Cade, (pictured above), along with Priya Sreenivasan and Azadeh Shahshahani of Project South. Cade said:

“The findings in Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement should encourage state and local governments to take their own steps to disentangle local policing from immigration policy. Enacting laws and practices that decrease the fiscal and human costs of lengthy incarcerations that rip families apart – usually just following minor traffic violations – will also go a long towards reducing immigrant communities’ fear of interaction with law enforcement in these southern states.”

Numerous Georgia Law students enrolled in the Clinic made important contributions to various stages of this project, including initial data collection, legal research, and data analytics: Onur Yildirin, Sarah Mirza and Michael Aune in Spring 2018; Caitlin Felt, Carter Thomas and Roger Grantham in Spring 2019; and Andrea Aldana, Stroud Baker, Lisa Garcia, and Farishtay Yamin in Spring 2020.

The full report is available here.

Georgia Law clinic joins in publishing advisory for immigrant detainees

The Community Health Law Partnership Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law and four other law school clinics have published a lengthy practice advisory intended to assist immigrants currently or previously held at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.

The practice advisory is designed to help them in seeking damages, stays of removal, and long-term immigration relief based on the abuse they suffered at the detention center (prior posts). It thus provides detailed instructions on how to: file claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act; request stays of removal from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); file complaints with the U.S Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; and apply for U Visas.  

Taking part in this effort at the Georgia Law were Jason A. Cade, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law, and Director of the Community HeLP Clinic, Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd, and 3L Frederick King.

Joining them were the Boston University School of Law Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program, Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program, Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild. These and other entities have been collaborating on behalf of the Irwin detainees, including in ongoing litigation in Oldaker v. Giles, a consolidated habeas petition and class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. 

Georgia Law clinics’ advocacy helps client secure U.S. citizenship

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Years of advocacy by two clinics at the University of Georgia School of Law recently helped secure U.S. citizenship for a longtime immigrant client.

The earliest work with the client was undertaken by the Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic, as at that time the client was facing severe domestic abuse. Working under the supervision of Clinical Assistant Professor Christine M. Scartz, then-student Eric Abney, a member of the Georgia Law Class of 2020, secured a 12-month family violence protective order and successfully negotiated a resolution that gave the client exclusive possession of the marital residence and a vehicle, sole child custody, and child support.

After the client had gained this measure of safety and stability, the client then was referred to Georgia Law’s Community Health Law Partnership Clinic for further advocacy. Working under the supervision of Jason A. Cade, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, Amy Buice and Carter A. Thomas, members of the Classes of 2019 and 2020, respectively, used the Violence Against Women Act to ensure the client retained permanent residency without having to rely on her abusive former-partner. Subsequently, 3L Ansley Whiten helped the client file an application for naturalization, while 2L Luis Gomez prepared her for the naturalization interview; both were supervised primarily by Kristen Shepherd, the Community HeLP Clinic’s Staff Attorney.

The client became a U.S. citizen in April 2021, on her birthday.

Georgia Law clinics share in national CLEA Award for work on behalf of immigrant women who endured abuse, retaliation while in ICE detention

Efforts on behalf of immigrant women detained in a U.S. immigration center have earned national recognition for the Community HeLP Clinic and First Amendment Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

The Georgia Law clinics will share that recognition – the 2021 Clinical Legal Education Association Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Project – with law clinics at Harvard, Columbia, Texas A&M, and Boston universities.

The CLEA Award will be presented online 12 noon-1 pm Eastern Friday, April 30, as part of the annual Conference on Clinical Education of the Association of American Law Schools.

The clinics’ project confronted abuse of immigrant women while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Irwin Detention Center, a privately run facility in south Georgia. As previously posted, the women there were subjected to nonconsensual, medically unindicated, or invasive gynecological procedures. Those who spoke out about abuses faced accelerated deportation proceedings, solitary confinement, and other acts of retaliation. The project has pursued several administrative, judicial, and advocacy avenues, including ongoing litigation of Oldaker v. Giles, a consolidated habeas petition and class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The Project’s efforts have resulted in the release of nearly all 80 women in ICDC, as well as over 200 men, and stays of deportation for most of the Oldaker plaintiffs.

Leading the project on behalf of Georgia Law were Jason Cade (above right), Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law, and Director of the Community HeLP Clinic, and Clare Norins (above left), Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the First Amendment Clinic. Also taking part in this team effort were 3L students Raneem Ashrawi, Frederick King, Julia Griffis, and Anish Patel, 2L students Thomas Evans, Paige Medley, and Davis Wright, First Amendment Clinic Legal Fellow Samantha Hamilton, Community HeLP Clinic Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd, and administrative associate Sarah Ehlers.

Other collaborators included non-profits, private firms, legislative advocates, and community organizers.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students ask for asylum and withholding of removal in 11th Circuit oral argument

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard arguments this week in an asylum and immigration case prepared by a team of students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic.

Georgia Law 3L Maddie Conkel argued on behalf of the petitioner in Case No. 19-15144, Denis Aguilera Fernandez v. Garland. On account of the Covid-19 pandemic, Conkel’s argument was delivered online to a panel composed of Eleventh Circuit Judges William H. Pryor Jr., Jill A. Pryor, and Ed Carnes (audio here).

In earlier proceedings both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that the Clinic’s client – whom Cuban police had detained and beaten repeatedly over two years in an effort to prevent him from protesting the Cuban government – was “thoroughly credible.”  They further agreed that his mistreatment, though “severe and regrettable,” did not rise to the level of “persecution,” and that he had no reasonable fear of future persecution.

Conkel’s argument sought reversal of the resulting denials of asylum and withholding of removal. Georgia Law 3L Sarah Nelson helped Conkel prepare for the argument, and several other students helped the Clinic brief the case. 

The Eleventh Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Associate Dean Cade on US-Mexico migration, enforcement, activism

Two works concerning migration, enforcement, and activism along the Southern border between United States and Mexico have just been published by Jason A. Cade, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning and Hosch Associate Professor here at the University of Georgia.

In 2020, the migrant death toll exceeded a ten-year high following a summer of record-setting heat, while at the same time, criminal prosecutions of humanitarian activists reached unprecedented levels. Cade has addressed this situation in:

“‘Water is Life!’ (and Speech!): Death, Dissent and Democracy in the Borderlands”, an article published at 96 Indiana Law Journal 261 (2020) (SSRN). Cade explored the communicative conduct of activists such as No More Deaths, whose work along the southern border aims not only to save lives but also to convey the message that all lives—including those of unauthorized migrants—are worth saving. Cade argued that the context around this expressive dissent necessitates First Amendment scrutiny of government attempts to suppress or punish it, and he further explained the broader implications for debate about the ethics of border policies.

“All the Border’s a Stage: Humanitarian Aid as Expressive Dissent”, in 84 Studies in Law, Politics & Society, Special Issue: Law and the Citizen 110 (Austin Sarat ed., 2020). In this related book chapter, Cade examined the conduct of border policy dissenters through the lens of competing narratives, advancing the claim that tolerance of disparate viewpoints—especially those that peacefully challenge the status quo—can be crucial for both the generation of democratic knowledge and coexistence in a diverse society.

Both works comprise part of a larger research project, in which Cade is advancing a framework for more ethical border policies.