Immigrant Rights Clinic, Wilson Center for Science and Justice challenge deportation of longtime lawful permanent resident
Three third-year students drafted the brief in the appeal, which involves the intersection of federal immigration law and state criminal law, with the potential to affect thousands of immigrants in the Ninth Circuit.
Immigrant Rights Clinic students Jennalee Beazley ’22, Robin Liu ’22, and Aliyah Salame ’22 filed a brief in November in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit challenging a client’s deportation order based on drug-related convictions dating back to 2015.
The clinic previously represented the client, Luis Juarez, in his petition for habeas corpus, which led to his release from immigration detention in June after 16 months in custody. The appeal involves the intersection of federal immigration law and state criminal law, with the potential to affect thousands of immigrants in the Ninth Circuit.
“Working on the appellate brief was an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience. From working so much outside my comfort zone, I grew a lot as a writer and future attorney,” said Liu.
“Given the high stakes in immigration cases, it’s crucial to ensure that the law is applied correctly. I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills to help secure rights for my client and change the legal landscape for other immigrants.”
Added Beazley: “Growing is not easy and is not always fun, but it is very worth it. No exam has felt as satisfying to accomplish as getting to contribute to this case.”
Juarez is a long-time lawful permanent resident who was brought to the U.S. when he was about five years old. Following his release in June, he was reunited with his three U.S. citizen children and his parents and siblings, nearly all of whom are also U.S. citizens.
“We had a steep learning curve on this case, but the high stakes of the case were a big motivator for us to keep pushing ourselves,” Salame said. “Removal would be such a harsh consequence for someone who has already served time and actively rehabilitated himself, and whose entire family lives in the U.S. I hope we’re successful in getting our client a better outcome so he can move on with his life here.”
In light of the case’s potential impact, the Law School’s Wilson Center for Science and Justice developed an amicus brief to aid the court in interpreting state criminal law and attaching immigration consequences to a criminal conviction only where state law and Supreme Court precedent allow. Pro bono counsel Mark Fleming and Michaela Sewall of WilmerHale authored the brief on behalf of criminal law and sentencing scholars as well as criminal defense associations and federal defender offices throughout the Ninth Circuit. Duke Law student Gabe Berumen ’23 provided research assistance and joined as a signatory.
Fleming and Sewall stated, “We are proud to have worked on this brief with the Wilson Center and to have represented so many distinguished clients. We are hopeful that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the error made in this case and correct course.”
The case also garnered support from the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Immigrant Defense Project, the James H. Binger Center for New Americans, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which filed a separate amicus brief in support of Juarez.
“I learned so much from this case, spanning from the law itself to the logistical aspects of how to write a good appellate brief as a team. This was the first time any of us had written an appellate brief, so hearing positive feedback from amici was deeply rewarding,” said Salame.
Added Liu: “I appreciate the opportunity to work on the Ninth Circuit appellate brief with attorneys across the nation to protect the rights of immigrants.”
Clinical Professor Kate Evans, who directs the clinic, said she was impressed with students’ ability to develop a cutting-edge brief that is already impacting the representation of other migrants across the country.
“Our client and many others like him face the extreme sanction of banishment for convictions that stem from addiction,” Evans said. “Instead of recognizing his successful rehabilitation and deep commitment to serving his family, Mr. Juarez continues to face permanent separation from them. Through our students’ advocacy and the support of organizations and scholars nationwide, we have explained that the crime Mr. Juarez was convicted of does not meet the requirements for deportation. Until we arrive at a successful resolution, however, he and his family will continue to pay for an addiction he has overcome and a crime he has made every effort to compensate for.”