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Immigration and Human Rights Clinic Students Win Asylum Case After Client’s Seven-Year Journey

Monday, April 15, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: UDC Law Staff
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From left: IHR Clinic Instructor Saba Ahmed, LL.M. ’19, Justice Haynes, ’20, Samuel, Sesia Cruz, ’20, and IHR Clinic Co-Director Lindsay M. Harris.

The law school’s Immigration and Human Rights (IHR) Clinic celebrated yet another hard-fought victory this past month, as a Virginia-based U.S. Immigration Court judge granted asylum to the clinic’s client. Samuel – whose name has been anonymized – waited seven years for his claim to be adjudicated, after arriving in the U.S. at the age of seventeen from Honduras. Samuel fled gang violence in Honduras as a teenager only to be detained in the Berks County Family Detention Center in rural Pennsylvania, where UDC Law students visited last spring to provide much-needed legal services to the immigrant families awaiting an interview on their claim for asylum.

Sesia Cruz, ’20, and Justice Haynes, ’20, ably represented Samuel at the asylum hearing despite the increasingly uphill battle for asylum seekers in the wake of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempt to undermine asylum protections for individuals fleeing gang or domestic violence in the Matter of A-B- decision. Cruz and Haynes made the case for asylum with the benefit of a 600-page-strong record compiled by UDC Law students over the several years during which the IHR Clinic represented Samuel. With the support of Clinic Instructor Saba Ahmed, LL.M. ’19, Cruz and Haynes led direct examination of their client and presented a compelling closing statement highlighting the strengths of Samuel’s asylum claim.

Samuel testified bravely at the hearing, recounting years of violence and terror during his childhood in Honduras at the hands of a leader in the Mara 18 gang. After kidnapping and assaulting Samuel’s mother, the gang leader targeted Samuel and his siblings, claiming them as his own children and attempting to recruit Samuel into the gang. Samuel was abused daily by the gang leader before he managed to escape. Based on Samuel’s powerful testimony and compelling arguments from IHR Clinic students, the judge granted Samuel’s claim for asylum, finding a nexus between Samuel’s persecution to a protected ground for asylum, namely “family,” given that the gang leader had targeted Samuel based on his relationship with his mother.

“This success is the result of hundreds of hours of work to create strong records in the face of the increasingly uphill battle to gain asylum protection,” said IHR Clinic Co-Director Lindsay M. Harris. “Our clinic has been doing this important work, now in the headlines on a daily basis, long before the mainstream media was paying attention, and we continue to try to train thoughtful, resilient students to engage with and change the broken immigration system.”

Samuel’s case is only one of many on the IHR Clinic’s docket this semester. Other IHR Clinic students are hard at work on cases involving clients from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Honduras, Venezuela, and El Salvador.


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