Law School clinic and center make winning arguments in key Supreme Court immigration case

In a major immigrant rights ruling on June 14, the Supreme Court sided with arguments made by the Law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) and Center on the Administration of Criminal Law (CACL). The Court unanimously rejected the position of the government that two simple misdemeanor drug-possession offenses amount to a "drug trafficking aggravated felony" that mandates deportation of legal residents. The case involved Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, a Mexican native now in his thirties, who moved to the U.S. when he was five. About a year after he served 20 days for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, Carachuri-Rosendo was convicted for possessing a single tablet of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax without a prescription, and the government began deportation proceedings.

When his case, Carachuri-Rosendo v. United States, reached the High Court, the IRC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of immigrant rights organizations that explained the context of the issues and the range of people affected by the government's practices. The CACL, working with Debevoise & Plimpton, filed an amicus brief urging respect for decisions made by state prosecutors on whether to prosecute an individual as a recidivist offender.
 
The IRC brief was written by Alba Villa '11 and Stephen Kang '11, under the supervision of Alina Das '05.  The Court's decision is the culmination of over four years of work by the clinic in collaboration with the Immigrant Defense Project and other immigrant rights organizations and clinical programs. "The Court's decision demonstrates the importance of discretion in the American justice system—prosecutorial discretion in our criminal courts and judicial discretion in our immigration courts," said Das. "It ensures that thousands of immigrants will have an opportunity to be heard and a chance to seek relief from the harshness of deportation." CACL Executive Director Tony Barkow and attorney in residence David Edwards '08 helped prepare their amicus submission. Catherine Amirfar '00 was the lead Debevoise lawyer on CACL filing. Carachuri was represented by the University of Houston Law Clinic together with O'Melveny & Myers.

Posted June 16, 2010

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