Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Immigration
Students in the New Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Confront Human Vulnerability and Build Skills in a Changing Area of Law

When Victor Cedeño, ’21, heard last fall that the Law School was set to launch a new Immigrants’ Rights Clinic—a combination of litigation and policy work led by a rising star in the field—he knew he wanted in.

The Immigrants' Rights Clinic provides legal representation to immigrant communities in Chicago, including individual representation of immigrants in removal proceedings, immigration-related complex federal litigation, and policy and community education projects on behalf of community-based organizations. Students will interview clients, develop claims and defenses, draft complaints, engage in motion practice and settlement discussions, appear in federal, state, and administrative courts, and brief and argue appeals. In the policy and community education projects, students may develop and conduct community presentations, draft and advocate for legislation at the state and local levels, and provide support to immigrants' rights organizations. Current projects include a first-in-the-nation challenge to immigration detention authority under the PATRIOT Act, a civil rights lawsuit against state troopers for cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and a class action challenge to new naturalization standards for immigrants with intellectual disabilities. As this is the first year of the clinic's operation, students will also have the opportunity to help develop the clinic's docket. Both 2L and 3L students are encouraged to apply. Students with questions may contact Professor Hallett at nhallett@uchicago.edu to learn more.

IRC filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus on behalf of Irbin Rocha-Sanchez, a lawful permanent resident who had been detained for fifteen months while waiting for a decision on his removal case. The Petition alleged claims under the Due Process Clause, arguing that he could not be detained without an individualized bond hearing. On February 8, 2021, the Court agreed that his detention violated the Due Process Clause and ordered him released within 14 days unless the government proved by clear and convincing evidence that he was a danger to the community or a flight risk. Mr. Rocha-Sanchez has a 9-year-old daughter that he has not seen in a year because of the pandemic, and he himself caught COVID-19 while in detention.

Patrick Berning-O’Neill (LAW ’21) argued the case in January.

Media:

Elvia Malagón, Coronavirus outbreak hits immigration detainees before vaccine eligibility opens for jails in Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 31, 2021.

Case Documents:

In June 2020, IRC sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf Al Otro Lado (AOL), a binational border rights organization, to seek information about DHS’s COVID-19 response at two California detention centers, Adelanto Detention Center and Otay Detention Center, as well as border patrol stations in California, as well as retaliation against detainees who complained about DHS’s response.

In September 2020, Hon. Otis T. Wright III, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, granted a motion for preliminary injunction and ordered critical information released within 6 weeks. DHS had requested 28 months to process and release the records, and claimed that the pandemic had overwhelmed its ability to keep up with requests for information.

At oral argument, Judge Wright noted that DHS could have released immigrants from detention at the beginning of the pandemic. Having declined to do so, DHS’s treatment of immigrant detainees would be “brought out into the sunlight…sooner rather than later.”

To date, more than 5,000 DHS detainees have contracted COVID-19 and at least 7 have died of the disease.

Media:

Judge Orders DHS To Release Records Regarding COVID-19 Outbreaks, KPBS, Sept. 23, 2020.

Case Documents:

 

The First Legal Challenge to the USA PATRIOT ACT, 8 U.S.C. 1226a

IRC represents Adham Amin Hassoun, a stateless Palestinian who became the first person that the government detained under a never-before-used provision of the USA PATRIOT Act. After the district court ruled that due process required the government to prove by clear-and-convincing evidence that Mr. Hassoun was a danger to national security before indefinitely detaining him, the government conceded that it could not prove its case. Nevertheless, the government argued that the court erred in engaging in any inquiry into the government’s allegations whatsoever. In a win for due process and separation of powers, the court rejected that argument and ordered Mr. Hassoun’s release.

Facing the prospect of releasing Mr. Hassoun in the United States, the government reached an agreement with Rwanda to accept him as a permanent resident. He has now been resettled and is enjoying his freedom. IRC continues to litigate a motion for sanctions against the government for hiding and destroying evidence proving Mr. Hassoun’s innocence. IRC co-counseled on the case with the ACLU and the MacArthur Justice Center.

Brian Zagrocki (LAW ’20) presented oral argument on the case and Samantha Becci (LAW ’20) prepared witnesses for the trial.

Media:

Spencer Ackerman, Trump Is First to Use PATRIOT Act to Detain a Man Forever, The Daily, Beast, Nov. 29, 2019

Charlie Savage, Testing Novel Power, Trump Administration Detains Palestinian After Sentence Ends, N.Y. Times, Mar. 26, 2019.

Gary Craig, Feds may now have country for deportation of man once imprisoned for terrorism crime, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 14, 2020.

Carol Rosenberg, U.S. Deports Terrorism Convict It Had Sought to Hold Indefinitely, N.Y. Times, July 22, 2020.

Case Documents

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a public health crisis in immigration detention facilities across the country, and has caused the current Administration to further restrict the right to asylum at the Southern Border. The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has undertaken a wide variety of projects to protect immigrants in detention from COVID-19 and to ensure that the pandemic does not prevent immigrants from seeking asylum.

The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has: