Immigrant Rights Clinic students win asylum for transgender client
The clinic student-attorneys represented a prominent LGBTQ+ activist from Central America who had suffered brutal persecution in her country in Charlotte's immigration court.
Three third-year students in Duke Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic successfully represented their asylum client Sept. 18 at her final hearing before the U.S. Immigration Court in Charlotte.
Jessica Shub ’24, Claude Wilson ’24, and Carlos Campos ’24 represented a transgender woman and prominent LGBTQ+ activist from Central America who had suffered brutal persecution in her country. Despite years of abuse, she has advocated for equal rights for the transgender community even while state authorities refused her protection and actively participated in harming her.
“It felt surreal to hear the immigration judge grant our client asylum,” Shub said. “It made the frustrations, tears, and late nights over the last few months well worth it. Working with the clinic team to secure asylum for our client has been the most worthwhile experience of my time at Duke Law.”
The student-attorneys curated nearly 1,100 pages of evidence in support of their client’s claim, ranging from detailed sworn declarations of several witnesses to voluminous human rights reports, documentation of national discriminatory laws, and corroborative medical evidence. They also drafted a legal brief demonstrating how the record should lead to a grant of asylum and conducted multiple mock trials in which they delivered an opening statement, introduced evidence into the record, conducted direct examination of percipient and expert witnesses, and made a closing argument.
While the odds of success in an asylum claim in the Charlotte court are low, the immigration judge credited the thoroughness of the claim, the strength of the record, and the credibility of the client in deciding to grant protection at the conclusion of the hearing.
“This win is a testament to our client’s labor of love to advocate for herself and the LGBTQ+ community in her home country and beyond, said Clinical Fellow Jenny Kim. “I am very proud of our students’ work in walking alongside her.”
Clinical Professor Shane Ellison, the clinic’s supervising attorney, agreed: “There is absolutely nothing like the joy of walking out of court with your client after having just been granted relief. I am so pleased for our client and our students who helped her secure the protection she deserves.”
Added Campos: “Working with our client on her asylum claim and winning in court was like nothing I’d experienced before. I felt so happy to have been a part of her successful asylum claim and to have been able to contribute to it.”
After the hearing the client and her husband were overjoyed at the outcome and she expressed appreciation for the students’ assistance.
“I felt so glad when my asylum was granted,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. It’s incredible all that work that the clinic did for me.
“Thank you for making my dreams come true. I feel so blessed for this new beginning.”
Kate Evans, the clinic’s director, said she expected the students’ success in this case would be helpful to immigrant rights advocacy in the Charlotte court in the future.
“This win is part of the clinic’s broader goal of building a body of litigation resources and favorable decisions that can be used to defend other asylum-seekers from deportation in a court that has one of the lowest approval rates for asylum in the country,” she said.