Immigrant Rights Clinic
|LW.11134 / LW.10586
Professor Alina Das
Professor Nancy Morawetz
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 14 students
The Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) is a leading institutionin both local and national struggles for immigrant rights. Our students engage in direct legal representation of immigrants and community organizations in litigation at the agency, federal court, and where necessary Supreme Court level, and in immigrant rights campaigns at the local, state, and national level. Each student, along with a student partner, will typically have the opportunity to represent both an individual or a set of individuals in litigation (such as a removal proceeding or appeal, detention litigation, or a civil suit) as well as a community organization in a campaign (such an organizing project or legislative campaign). We choose our docket in consultation with our community partners and engage in work that is responsive to community needs. Students have direct responsibility for these cases and the opportunity to build their understanding of legal practice and the field of immigrant rights law and organizing.
Our individual litigation work generally focuses on three main areas: (1) deportation defense, (2) detention challenges, and (3) affirmative immigrant rights litigation. Under current immigration law, thousands of noncitizens face exile and permanent separation from their families through deportation and detention policies every day, and the numbers are increasing. This is largely a result of an expanding interconnection between the criminal and immigration systems—where even a misdemeanor conviction may lead to mandatory detention and deportation, even for someone with lawful permanent resident status (a “green card”) and U.S. citizen family members. Moreover, federal agencies have been aggressively targeting individuals who lack status—in their homes, workplaces, and communities, often by turning police officers into immigration agents. As a result of these policies, immigrants have been targeted, racially profiled, criminalized, and subjected to draconian deportation and detention policies. Our individual litigation work, in immigration and federal court, pushes back against unjust interpretations of the current law and pushes forward to create systemic change.
Our community campaign work generally focuses on three main areas: (1) representing organizations engaged in drafting legislation and legislative campaigns, (2) developing organizations’ community education, reporting, and/or Know Your Rights work, and (3) spearheading amicus briefing or other forms of group-centered litigation on behalf of community organizations. As social justice lawyers in the immigrant rights struggle, we recognize that traditional litigation practices are only one small part of a larger movement. New York and New Jersey in particular are home to scores of amazing organizations that are engaged in immigrant organizing, public education, and legislative campaigns to fix our broken laws. Our clinic supports these efforts by representing these organizations in their work, much of which operates at the intersection of immigrant rights and labor rights, access to justice, criminal law reform, equality, and a number of key social justice issues.
Each student in our clinic, along with a student partner, will represent two clients: an individual (or set of individuals) in individual litigation, and an organization (or set of organizations) in a community campaign. Students serve as the lead attorneys for both their cases and campaign projects.
This means that students have direct responsibility for all aspects of their individual case and community campaign work. In individual cases, this may include client interviews, fact development, legal research, pleadings/complaint drafting, motions practice and briefing, negotiation, discovery, witness preparation, trial, and/or oral argument. In community campaign work, this may include legislative drafting, development of media strategies, planning for meetings with legislative or administrative officials, public education, and/or report documentation. In this way, the clinic gives students the opportunity to have their own cases and experience what it means to be a social justice lawyer.
We finalize our docket of cases/campaigns each summer prior to the start of the new academic year. Students have the opportunity to rank their preferences and we balance everyone’s interests and goals in assigning student teams to each case/project.
To give you a sense of what our docket typically includes, here are examples of past/current individual cases:
- Representing a long time lawful permanent resident and community activist from Trinidad and Tobago who is facing mandatory deportation and permanent separation from his family due to his one-time fraud conviction. In 2012-2013, students have been litigating his case on several fronts, including a petition for review before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and a petition for coram nobis (challenging his underlying conviction) in federal district court in New Jersey. Students are also pursing administrative advocacy and working with a committee of activists and organizers to resolve his case. This case was referred by Families for Freedom, of which our client is a member and activist.
- Representing an immigrant arrested in a home raid in which Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents violated a host of agency regulations. Our client was asleep in his bed when DHS agents came his home and obtained entry through deceptive tactics. We filed motions to suppress the evidence and terminate proceedings before immigration court. After the court denied our motions, we appealed the order to the Board of Immigration Appeals and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In early 2012, the Third Circuit granted our appeal and remanded the case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals for further proceedings. We are currently litigating these issues before the Board.. This case was referred by Catholic Charities of New Jersey.
- Representing a lawful permanent resident facing deportation to Jamaica despite her significant ties to the United States and the persecution and torture of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Jamaica. She previously won relief under the Convention Against Torture before the Immigration Judge, but the government appealed. Students are briefing the case before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and also cross-appealing the issue of whether our client’s misdemeanor marijuana conviction bars her from cancellation of removal or asylum. This case is being litigated with the Legal Aid Society
- Representing a lawful permanent resident facing deportation to Jamaica as a gay man before the Board of Immigration Appeals. This case was referred by CLINIC’s pro bono project.
- Representing a longtime lawful permanent resident suffering from mental illness and facing deportation to Trinidad & Tobago. This year students are representing their client before an Immigration Judge and seeking a hearing on cancellation of removal and asylum, withholding, and relief under the Convention Against Torture, arguing that his convictions are not “aggravated felonies.” This case is being litigated with the Legal Aid Society.
- Representing a 16-year-old boy from El Salvador seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Our client entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor and was eventually reunited with his mother in New York. A student this year is representing him in Family Court and Immigration Court proceedings to ensure that he is able to remain in the United States. This case is being litigated with the Legal Aid Society.
- Representing a longtime lawful permanent resident whose U.S. citizenship—having to come to the United States as the son of an American Armed Service member—is being litigated as part of his removal proceedings. This year’s students represented in Immigration Court, litigating the citizenship issue and whether he is competent to be in removal proceedings due to mental disability. The team also filed a habeas petition to challenge his detention and successfully secured his release. This case is being litigated with the Legal Aid Society.
Here are examples of past/current organizational campaign case work from our docket:
- Representing the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign in their legislative advocacy to end the unjust exclusion of farmworkers from key NY labor protections. In 2011-2012, students prepared research and materials in support of the campaign and worked with various allies to strategize about campaign tactics and goals.
- Representing national immigrant advocacy groups and community organizations in amicus filings before the circuit courts and the Supreme Court on issues related to detention and deportation. In recent years, the students have filed amicus briefs before the Supreme Court in cases involving the scope of the “drug trafficking aggravated felony” label, the availability of discretionary relief, and challenges to state anti-immigrant laws.
- Representing the New York State Youth Leadership Council in their campaign to enact the New York Dream Act, to ensure greater access to opportunities for undocumented youth in New York State. In 2012-2013, students are conducting research to help the group and their allies with their campaign, and working on the needs of undocumented youth in light of the deferred action for childhood arrivals programs.
- Representing New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, a coalition of organizations that cares deeply about immigrants detained in the expanding patchwork of immigration jails in the state. In past years, students worked on groundbreaking reports, Locked Up But Not Forgotten and Immigration Incarceration, focusing on conditions and access issues in New Jersey jails. This year, students are working on a telephone justice campaign to lower phone rates in New Jersey facilities.
- Representing the Immigrant Defense Project in its efforts to stop Secure Communities (S-Comm), a fingerprinting program aimed at funneling more immigrants into the deportation and detention system. In 2011-2012, students researched options for local action to push back against S-Comm and are creating a toolkit for groups that want to make their communities safe and free from S-Comm. This year, students are working on a Know Your Rights curriculum and train-the-trainers to facilitate the Immigrant Defense Project’s trainings and messaging.
- Representing the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the ACLU of Georgia, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Freedom of Information Act litigation regarding the local enforcement of federal immigration law in Georgia.
The seminar component of the Immigrant Rights Clinic is a practice-oriented examination of advocacy on behalf of immigrants. The seminar meets twice weekly and covers both substantive and skill-based issues that arise in our fieldwork. Students have the opportunity to learn about immigration law and, where it arises in our cases, the intersection of immigration law with criminal, international, civil rights, labor and employment law. Students learn from their fellow students’ cases and campaign work, and have the opportunity to explore what it means to be a social justice lawyer.
Students should submit the standard application, resume and transcript online via CAMS. Applicants should submit as lengthy a response to Question 4 of the standard application as they feel necessary and may ignore the 300 word limit. Applicants invited to interview will be contacted by email. The clinic accepts 2Ls and 3Ls. If you have any questions regarding the application process, please contact Noelia Rodriguez at 212-998-6459 or by email.
Students who enroll in the Immigrant Rights Clinic as 2Ls may have the opportunity to join the Advanced Immigrant Rights Clinic in their 3L year. There is no formal application process for the Advanced Immigrant Rights Clinic. Those students will be contacted about the application process in the Spring.
We recommend that students interested in the clinic speak to members of the 2011-2012 Immigrant Rights Clinic and the Advanced Immigrant Rights Clinic.
|2012-2013 Immigrant Rights Clinic||2012-2013 Advanced Immigrant Rights Clinic|
Cesar Francia Rivero
* 14 credits includes 3 clinical credits and 4 academic seminar credits per semester.
** Courses in immigration law, administrative law, federal courts, public benefits law, evidence, and civil litigation may be helpful.