Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights

 

Our Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic (INRC) provides legal services for immigrants seeking either to be free from U.S. custody or to live in the U.S. without fear, exploitation, or subordination.

INCR Clinic Highlights

  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a 31 year old refugee from Ukraine who has been detained by the Department of Homeland Security for over a year due to his negligible criminal history.
  • Litigating in detained U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a man who was wrongly arrested and jailed twice by the Department of Homeland Security due to egregious racial and religious profiling and placed in deportation proceedings. We successfully argued for his release on bond and argued that the scant evidence used against him was unreliable.
  • Litigating in District Court on behalf of numerous individuals whose adjustment and naturalization processes have been unduly delayed for years or decades.
  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court and Queens Family Court on behalf of a 17 year old unaccompanied minor who fled gang violence in El Salvador.
  • Litigating in detained U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a man who was improperly denied entry at the airport after implementation of the travel ban and placed in civil detention. We argue that he must be admitted as a lawful permanent resident and, alternatively, be granted asylum due to fear of persecution if returned to his home country.
  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of 33 year-old longtime green card holder who is facing deportation for a nearly decade-old misdemeanor conviction. We argue that his criminal conviction does not make him subject to deportation and that the case against him must be closed.
  • Representing a Syrian refugee, Y and her family, residing in Saudi Arabia in a refugee complex near the Yemeni border where they are subjected to shelling.  X is a U.S. national of Syrian descent. Through a special program administered by the State Department, INRC successfully petitioned and expedited approval of an I-130 family based petition for her sister Y to enter the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  INRC is working to expedite and prepare Y for her prescreening and USCIS interviews which will determine her eligibility to come to the United States.  X is also a plaintiff in Trump v. IRAP, which went to the Supreme Court, challenging the Muslim Ban.
  • Representing individuals who have been deemed inadmissible due to vague and overbroad Terrorism Inadmissibility Grounds.
  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a lawful permanent resident whose previous challenge to the legality of his detention made precedential 2nd Circuit law that ensures that now, all detained non-citizens in his position, are guaranteed a bond hearing within 6 months of detention. We successfully conducted his immigration trial and convinced the judge to cancel his removal based on his positive equities, including his longstanding ties to the community.  This ended over four years in deportation proceedings and he is alas living free from government intervention with his family.
  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a woman in deportation proceedings who is seeking immigration status independent of the physically and emotionally abusive husband from whom she has escaped.
  • Litigating before the Board of Immigration Appeals on behalf of an undocumented woman who was thrown into deportation proceedings after Department of Homeland Security Agents racially profiled her for speaking Spanish. We argue that all evidence gathered from the illegal stop should be suppressed.
  • Litigating before the Board of Immigration Appeals on behalf of a detained Iraqi man who was ordered removed years ago and picked up as part of the Administration’s sudden sweep and arrest of hundreds of Iraqis in 2017. We are appealing the denial of his motion to reopen his original removal proceedings.
  • Litigating in U.S. Immigration Court on behalf of a 23-year old man seeking refugee status because his home was bulldozed and father was killed by the government in his home country due to his involvement in opposition politics.
  • Litigating cutting edge habeas corpus petitions in U.S. Federal District Court, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, and before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Algerian, Libyan, Saudi, Syrian, and Yemeni prisoners held indefinitely, without charge or fair process at U.S. military prisons at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
  • Serving as lead defense counsel for a defendant before the Military Commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Representing a number of prisoners before the Periodic Review Board at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Petitioning on behalf of Guantánamo prisoners before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
  • Representing a U.S. citizen through administrative hearings after his passport was revoked without explanation when he went to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen to register the birth of his child.
  • Creating education programs for community organizations, pro bono practitioners, and applicants for naturalization.
  • Serving as legislative counsel for a community organization mounting a campaign for pro-immigrant worker legislation in the New York City Council.
 
 

Mission

The mission of the Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic (INRC) is to provide a platform for the exploration, development and implementation of ideas and strategies to close the growing legal divide between citizens and non-citizens of the United States of America. At the heart of our work is a principled commitment to the rights and dignity of all. Accordingly, the clinic aims to empower the rising generation of social justice lawyers with the skills needed to confront the degradation in the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike that has been wrought under the guise of homeland security and public safety but is driven by oppressive and discriminatory forces. Our clinic's objectives are carried out in our legal representations—where we press for progressive, humane and fair interpretations of the law on behalf of members of marginalized groups—as well as through policy and advocacy projects in partnership with community-based organizations.

 

Overview

Non-citizens have complicated relationships with law and government in the United States. Throughout U.S. history, immigration, both regulated and unregulated, has been one of the foundations of economic and cultural development. It holds equally true that immigrants and non-citizens are commonly targeted as scapegoats by authorities during times of real and perceived threat to U.S. national and economic security.

For instance, law becomes the instrument by which immigrants are deported and exploited, families are split, and communities of color, particularly, are subject to subordination. As a result, workers fear reporting abuses by supervisors and crime victims are afraid to call the police.

It is also in the name of national security and under cover of legal authority that non-citizens are abused and indefinitely imprisoned without charge or fair process at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers around the United States, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and other U.S. sites, secret or known.

The INRC was one of the first immigration law clinics in the nation and has a distinguished record of litigation and advocacy in support of communities and their organizations. Current faculty have practice backgrounds and scholarly interests in the following areas: asylum and immigration law, deportation and detention issues, immigration consequences of criminal legal issues, refugee law and procedure, law and security, unlawful and pretextual immigration delays and denials, non-citizens and access to counsel and gender-based violence. Further, we work in cohort with faculty within and outside of CUNY to provide our clients with holistic care, be it immigrant access to public benefits and education, counsel about rights in the workplace, and medical and psychological care and evaluation.

INRC attempts to evolve constantly to meet community need and because we wish to model a practice of law that is flexible rather than fixed, most of the cases on our docket are selected strategically to test or develop an area of law. By supporting and representing non-citizens and those denied the rights attendant to citizenship, we aim to train law students to become thoughtful, principled, skilled and committed public interest lawyers.

In recent terms, INRC student interns have represented detained legal permanent residents with criminal convictions, unaccompanied minors, domestic violence survivors and asylum-seekers in deportation proceedings at the agency and federal court level. Student interns have also represented prisoners of various nationalities presently or formerly held at American military facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and at other detention sites worldwide, in federal district and appellate courts, and before military tribunals and international fora.

INRC members continue to support immigrant community organizations and labor groups in non-litigation advocacy, organizing, and awareness raising, including know-your-rights trainings through project work in addition to their docket assignments. A few examples of this project work include: intake work at community-based organizations, trainings and support for women self-petitioning under the Violence Against Women Act, advocating for better conditions in local immigration detention centers. Student interns also participate in our in-house projects and initiatives, including:

The CLEAR Project provides free legal services, know your rights trainings and support for community organizing on a broad range of issues that arise in connection to “national security” and “counterterrorism” policies and practices. In a typical semester, CLEAR student interns may represent individuals approached by the FBI or NYPD for questioning or those who experience travel difficulties due to placement on no-fly lists; facilitate know your rights workshops in mosques, community associations and student groups; and support local community organizing campaigns. For more information on CLEAR please visit www.cunyclear.org and here.

Working in partnership with the community based organizations to create community education materials that are fully accessible to impacted communities, who are increasingly being targeted by the Department of Homeland Security and local police for alleged "gang-related" activities. Through community education materials, we want to provide important accessible legal information to Latinx communities, who are subject to this type of law enforcement activity. We are also creating a legal defense toolkit and a report to expand advocacy in support of impacted communities. 

Creating an FAQ resource for CUNY students <pdf> & other New Yorkers impacted by the Administration’s termination of DACA. Though we still work towards permanent status for those who have been impacted by this and other destabilizing immigration policies, with this resource we hope to address initial questions that CUNY community members may have about immigration status, work authorization, professional licensing, parental planning, law enforcement interactions, healthcare and more. 

From left to right: Versely Rosales (Alum ’14), Prof. Ramzi Kassem, Prof. Nermeen Arastu, Nasrin Moznu (Alum ’14) and Supervising Attorney Diala Shamas

From left to right: Versely Rosales (Alum ’14), Prof. Ramzi Kassem, Prof. Nermeen Arastu, Nasrin Moznu (Alum ’14) and Supervising Attorney Diala Shamas

 

Typical Student Practice

The INRC represents individuals in federal and immigration court proceedings at the agency, trial and appellate levels. We endeavor to undertake individual cases referred to us by community organizations and various collectives in advancement of campaigns for social and economic justice.

We also represent community organizations by providing legislative and policy counsel on a variety of matters and undertake community education programs in New York.

Finally, we advocate for individuals with applications for immigration and other benefits before federal agencies.

Overall, we train student interns to advance social and economic justice through a reflective practice on behalf of individual clients and activist groups.

Substantively, across our docket areas, INRC student interns grapple daily with the complexities of immigration law, Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues, international human rights and humanitarian law, and other issues.

Our student interns may be responsible for a range of roles in these cases, including trial advocacy, legal research and writing, oral argument, client interviewing, working with social workers, experts and interpreters, and coordination with accompanying political campaigns.

Concretely, INRC student interns have drafted, filed, and argued pleadings and motions in federal district court and immigration court; they have examined and cross-examined witnesses during live proceedings; they have written appellate and Supreme Court briefs on live client matters; they have petitioned before international bodies; and they have engaged in negotiations with various U.S. government agencies as well as foreign government representatives in New York and Washington, D.C. in order to advance client interests.

Student interns have also conducted privileged meetings with clients at various immigration detention facilities in the greater New York City area and at the U.S. military prison facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Finally, student interns participate in a range of media and political advocacy to advance client interests, including drafting op-eds for publication and interfacing with reporters on cutting edge clinic cases.

Members of the INRC 2015 team with Professor Ramzi Kassem (left to right: Cadesha Pearson, Jean Paul Rivera, Brendan Rush, Andrew Adams, Syeda Tasnim, Stephanie Rivera, Nabila Taj, Allegra Vechio and Imara de Montfort)

Left to right: Cadesha Pearson, Jean Paul Rivera, Brendan Rush, Andrew Adams, Syeda Tasnim, Stephanie Rivera, Nabila Taj, Allegra Vechio and Imara de Montfort

 

Distinctive Skills Focus

In addition to the set of legal skills which are taught in all of our clinical programs, the INRC emphasizes the following distinctive elements of public interest practice in our fieldwork and classroom instruction:

Policy Advocacy: We believe strongly that excellent public interest lawyers must have basic policy advocacy skills, such as knowledge of legislative drafting framing techniques, grassroots lobbying methodologies, and media advocacy, to complement litigation expertise.

Participatory Litigation: Because we litigate with the goal of furthering the mobilization of our clients for social and economic justice, we contextualize traditional legal skills in a participatory framework and expect our student interns to work with clients as collaboratively as possible.

Know Your Rights and Community Education: As part of a law school that is firmly rooted in New York City's neighborhoods, we think it is essential to train student interns to engage in know-your-rights and community education programs, especially ones that can be constructed to be sustained by our community-based collaborators.

Lawyers and Client Mobilization: We teach student interns to work with community-based organizers because we believe that lawyering alone will not advance social and economic justice. Through these collaborations, we explore the strategic and ethical challenges posed by a mode of practice that aims to mobilize clients, in addition to asserting legal rights and defenses on their behalf.

Strategies for Social and Economic Justice: Because the clinic immerses student interns in multiple modes of legal practice, we closely examine the strategic choices facing public interest lawyers engaged in larger struggles for justice.

Prof. Alizabeth Newman (far right) with students from INRC organizing with Sepa Mujer.

Prof. Alizabeth Newman (far right) with students from INRC organizing with Sepa Mujer.

 

Classroom Component

In addition to fieldwork supervision meetings with faculty, student interns participate in seminars approximately 6 hours per week.

Currently, the INRC emphasizes substantive law instruction at the beginning the academic year, followed by intense focus on specific lawyering skills, such as theory of the case, interviewing and counseling.

Because one or more of our student intern teams have full hearings in court each year, we also focus on trial skills, such as direct and cross examination and trial planning.

To the greatest extent possible, we use the actual cases on which student interns work to teach legal skills and stimulate grounded discussions on legal ethics and advocacy strategy. Student interns also share strategies and brainstorm solutions through frequent case rounds, giving all an opportunity to hear about what others are working on.

Throughout the year, we invite INRC alumni to return to the classroom as teachers to share career guidance, substantive training and experiences in the field.

CLEAR Students Xue Huang (Alum ’14); Michelle Born (Alum ’14) and Shabana Shahabuddin (Class of 2015) tabling in Queens

CLEAR Students Xue Huang (Alum ’14); Michelle Born (Alum ’14) and Shabana Shahabuddin (Class of 2015) tabling in Queens

 

Clinic Graduates

Many INRC graduates work in defender organizations, legal non-profits, or solo or small firm practices in the region. Below are a few examples:

  • Attorney, Brooklyn Family Defense Project, Brooklyn, NY
  • Attorney, Juvenile Rights Division, Legal Aid Society, New York, NY
  • Associate, Gladstein, Reif & Meginniss, LLP, New York, NY
  • Attorney, Outten & Golden LLP
  • Director, Immigrant Women and Children Program, City Bar Fund, New York, NY
  • EJW Fellow, Sanctuary for Families, New York, NY
  • Law Clerk, Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, Miami, FL
  • Law Clerk, New Jersey Superior Court, Elizabeth, NJ
  • Law Clerk, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Philadelphia, PA
  • Law Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, New York, NY
  • Senior Counsel and Director, Community Services Team, Holland & Knight LLP, Washington, D.C.
  • Staff Attorney, inMotion, New York, NY
  • Immigration Attorney, Civil Action Practice, The Bronx Defenders
  • Director, UnLocal, Inc (a non-profit organization incubated by the CUNY School of Law’s Incubator Program)
  • Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn, NY
  • Supervising Attorney, Immigration Practice, Brooklyn Defender Services, Brooklyn, NY
  • Attorney, International Justice Network, Queens, NY
  • Attorney in a small practice in Florida focusing on criminal defense in terrorism cases.
  • Organizer, Sakhi, New York, NY
  • Deputy Commissioner, Law Enforcement Bureau of the New York City, Commission on Human Rights
(2014 CUNY Law Grads and INRC Alum Christopher Costa, Kirby Einhorn and Allison Apollo after a successful hearing at 26 Federal Plaza)

(2014 CUNY Law Grads and INRC Alum Christopher Costa, Kirby Einhorn and Allison Apollo after a successful hearing at 26 Federal Plaza)

 

Clinic Faculty & Staff

 
 

Frequently Asked Questions for CUNY Students & Other New Yorkers Impacted by the Termination of DACA

September 27, 2017 – New York –
This document is a FAQ resource for CUNY students & other New Yorkers impacted by the termination of DACA. Though we still work towards permanent status for those who have been impacted by this and other destabilizing immigration policies, we have received many questions from CUNY community members who are concerned about losing status and how to potentially navigate life without documents. With this resource we hope to address initial questions that CUNY community members may have about immigration status, work authorization, professional licensing, parental planning, law enforcement interactions, healthcare and more.

If you would like to see this document translated in other languages, please let us know. We will be posting it in Spanish on our website in the coming week. This document is the product of a collaboration between the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, Health Law Practice Clinic and The Planning with Parents Project at the CUNY School of Law. Do reach out to us if you have any further questions on this and/or related matters.