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.
About the Clinic
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 high-profile national security habeas petition, a civil rights lawsuit against state troopers for cooperation with federal immigration authorities, a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security related to coronavirus public health measures in immigration detention, and representation of refugees evacuated from Syria and Afghanistan, unaccompanied minors from Central America, and human trafficking victims.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
The immigrant population is likely to be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic as many struggle to access information, medical care, and relief services.
Policy and Community Education
IRC and NIJC Release Guide for Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing Non-Citizens
In September 2021, IRC and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) released A Brief Guide to Representing Noncitizen Criminal Defendants in Illinois, which provides criminal defense attorneys and immigration practitioners critical information they need to minimize the immigration consequences of their clients’ criminal convictions. The publication of this manual was made possible by a capacity-building grant from the Illinois Access to Justice Program.
Federal immigration law imposes severe consequences on non-citizens with criminal histories. Even convictions for relatively minor offenses can lead to deportation, including for lawful permanent residents who have lived in the United States for decades. Although non-citizens can also face deportation after being convicted on federal charges, most non-citizens who are deported on criminal grounds are deported because of state criminal convictions. Because of this, defense attorneys must have a basic knowledge of immigration law to advise their non-citizen clients of the immigration consequences of certain criminal convictions.
This manual provides Illinois defense attorneys with tools to zealously advocate for non-citizen clients in criminal court. The first guide of its kind in Illinois, it will help prevent the deportation of thousands of Illinois residents each year.
Jacob Hamburger (LAW ’21), Patrick Berning-O’Neill (LAW ’21), Jordan Jenkins (LAW ’23) and Brad Posdal (LAW ’23) researched and drafted the report.
IRC Publishes Report on How Chicago’s Use of Digital Surveillance Technology
In June 2021, IRC, Organized Communities Against Deportation, Mijente, and Just Futures Law published a report called The Digital Deportation Machine: How Surveillance Technology Undermines Chicago’s Welcoming City Policy. The report detailed how data from the CPD’s gang database, automated license plate readers, and facial recognition software is funneled to Fusion Centers run jointly with Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and how this information-sharing is a loophole written into the City’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which is supposed to prohibit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The Associated Press covered the release of the report. Jacob Hamburger (LAW ’21) and Kathleen Schmidt (LAW ’22) researched and drafted the report.
Rocha-Sanchez v. Kolitwenzew, 2:20-cv-02362-SEM-TSH (Central District of Illinois)
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 2021.
Al Otro Lado v. DHS, 2:20-cv-05191 (Central District of California)
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.
- DHS FOIA Request (PDF)
- Al Otro Lado v. DHS, 20-cv-5191, Complaint Filed June 11, 2020 (PDF)
- Press Release, June 11, 2020 (PDF)
- Decision and Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction, September 23, 2020 (PDF)
- Transcript of Preliminary Injunction Hearing, September 14, 2020 (PDF)
Hassoun v. Searls, 19-cv-390 (Western District of New York)
The First Legal Challenge to the USA PATRIOT ACT, 8 U.S.C. 1226a
IRC represented 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.
IRC Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
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:
- Submitted open records requests to local facilities in four states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin) that house immigration detainees to ensure that facilities’ efforts to keep detainees safe are transparent.
- Illinois Freedom of Information Act Letter to McHenry County Jail (PDF)
- Illinois Freedom of Information Act Letter to Pulaski County Detention Center (PDF)
- Indiana Access to Public Records Act Letter to Clay County Sheriff (PDF)
- Kentucky Open Records Act Letter to Boone County Jail (PDF)
- Wisconsin Open Records Law Letter to Dodge County Sheriff (PDF)
- Wisconsin Open Records Law Letter to Kenosha County Sheriff (PDF)
- Submitted a comment to the Center for Disease Control in response to a final interim rule that effectively ended the right of asylum at the U.S.-Mexico Border.
- Filed a lawsuit against the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office to obtain records related to a coronavirus outbreak that hit the facility in December 2020 and January 2021