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Immigration Lawyer Students Take on ICE and Win

Students at Yale Law School successfully represented two Connecticut residents under deportation proceedings against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this year, according to the Washington Times article here. The immigration lawyer students negotiated a settlement with ICE that consisted of their client’s deportation proceedings being terminated in exchange for dismissal of claims against ICE.

The two clients of the immigration lawyer students had alleged that ICE had caused their unlawful detention by issuing immigration detainers to Connecticut law enforcement authorities. In two separate incidents, the men were arrested by police and convicted for driving offenses. Part of the case that the immigration lawyer students built rested on their client’s minimal criminal history and strong family and community ties in Connecticut, reflecting a situation that should not have merited an enforcement priority for ICE. Additionally, both men were arrested and held by local authorities on the ICE detainers for several days past the expiration of a criminal custody hold length. The Yale law students contend that this happens all too frequently with ICE, and that issuance of detainers through local law enforcement is a violation of federal laws, and that law enforcement’s cooperation with holding the detainees while awaiting further investigation from ICE is also unlawful.

The response by ICE for these two men’s cases was interesting to note; spokesperson Daniel Modricker declined to discuss the specifics but said that “parties involved in litigation routinely seek to resolve the matters in the least disruptive manner without any concession of wrongdoing.” ICE further stated that “local authorities may only hold an immigrant on a detainer for up to 48 hours and detainees can contact the agency’s intake center with complaints.” Well, all that sounds well and good, right? ICE isn’t admitting to any wrongdoing, and if their detainees have a problem, they can file a complaint.

Only it took a lawsuit followed by several news outlets before ICE would hear the complaints of the defendants represented by the immigration lawyer students. In the face of ICE’s cool comments about filing complaints, many are reminded of the virtual utter powerlessness that immigrants held in detention experience. And even while some political advocates are attempting to improve the information provided to detainees being considered for deportation, the information is pretty bleak, and the two men represented by Yale Law School students are fortunate indeed, when immigrants being considered for deportation don’t even have the constitutional right of legal counsel.

Additional efforts by Yale Law School clinics in immigration matters include a Class Action lawsuit for all ICE detainees held six months or longer in Massachusetts, and one veteran’s lawsuit resulting in a habeas corpus hearing earlier this year paved the way for other similarly held detainees to have a voice. Any immigration lawyer would know that federal courts across the country have rejected ICE arguments that it may detain certain immigrants indefinitely, but these rulings only extend relief to the individuals bringing the cases to court, while others without the resources to sue in federal court remain in detention for months or years. The students at Yale are hoping the class action suit can make a difference for more detainees in the future.

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