Interprofessional Center

for Counseling & Legal Services

UST Immigration Appellate Clinic wins their second case

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On February 20, 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded to the Board of Immigration Appeals (or Executive Office for Immigration Review –Los Angeles, California Immigration Court) the case of a Guatemalan asylum seeker who was represented by 3L students Charles Dolson ‘14 and Alan Tritcht '14 of the UST Immigration Appellate Clinic.

It wasn’t just any semester for Charles and Alan. Under the supervision of Elizabeth Holmes , adjunct clinical faculty and attorney at Karam Law, the team succeeded in the first appellate case victory for the Clinic since its start in the Fall of 2012.  Only a small number of cases are actually remanded from the Board of Immigration Appeals according to Elizabeth, so it’s no small feat for the team!

“From start to finish we learned so many different lessons than we do in law school, both procedurally and in researching law.” reflects Alan.

The team was presented with the case, which originally arose out of California, through the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) on September 20, 2013. The case involved a young Guatemalan woman who suffered persecution fled to the U.S. at 4 years of age and began to create a life here with her two U.S. citizen children.

“Violence against women has its own name in Guatemala.” shares Charles. According to a story written in the International Business times in January 2013, “In 2011, some 700 women were murdered, many of whom were also sexually assaulted, their bodies then mutilated and left in public view. Many of them are believed to have been targeted as a method of retaliation and intimidation between rival gangs and larger criminal organizations, but a vast majority are victims of domestic violence.”

Challenges include the limitation of record as the client represented herself in front of the immigration judge, difficult case law, distance, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) shut down in October 2013. While working on the case, communication was a challenge. The asylum seeker was detained in immigration in California, the BIA is in Virginia, and the team works here in Minneapolis. The team would anxiously await correspondence from the client, which was often delayed by two weeks. Additionally, according to Elizabeth “some detainees have a limited number of correspondence they can even send out.”

When to submit the brief was a lesson in the nuance of practice for both Charles and Alan. The students pushed back on the timeline for submission, feeling they would benefit from more time to make edits and redrafts to the brief. Knowing that the FedEx delivery must be a week in advance and some circuits won’t accept a brief unless it arrives to them on the day of the deadline, Elizabeth disagreed and ensured the brief was sent in mid-October, a week in advance. Charles reflects, “It was a great lesson in the nuances of practice for both of us.” With the BIA shutdown in October 2013 there was a zip code change and the potential for the brief to arrive late. The team quickly realized how significant it was to have their work complete and submitted in good time.

“It was a draining and intense four weeks, but I can’t wait to be at it again this semester.” Charles exclaims. As the team is bringing one successful journey to a close, they embark on another challenging appellate case involving a young man from Mexico appealing his asylum and cancellation of removal case to the Board of Immigration Appeals. 

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