Students in Miami Law's Immigration Clinic won the case of a Mexican man whose relatives were killed by members of a drug cartel because they had failed to comply with the cartel's demands. The students took on the case in the spring of 2011, after the client had already been in detention without a lawyer for many months.
Julia Kosinski, who graduated in June 2011, and Yaneris Figueroa, 3L, represented the client in immigration court, arguing that he would likely be killed if he were deported to Mexico. Despite the increasing violence and bloodshed in Mexico's war on drugs, the case was difficult to win. The immigration judge initially denied the case, ruling that the man could relocate in Mexico safely.
"This was a very sad and frustrating decision handed down by the immigration judge," Kosinski said. "While the Mexican government is trying to correct the country's overgrowth of corruption and violence, the situation our client faces remains a very real threat to his life in Mexico."
The clinic appealed the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Student Brittany Young, 3L, wrote the appeal brief at the beginning of the fall semester. The Board granted the appeal and remanded the case back to the immigration judge. "I was ecstatic that the Board granted the appeal, because this man had already suffered enough," Young said. "This man deserved relief, and I wanted to be able to help make that happen."
In immigration court, Young and student Saul Cardenas, 3L, fought for a swift ruling for their client because of the length of time he had already spent in detention. Over the winter break, and almost a year since the case had begun, the immigration judge issued a decision granting the man's case. "I've been following this case since I joined the clinic about a year and a half ago, and I'm very happy to have been part of this case," Cardenas said. "Now, we can start working on getting him other documents."
As part of their work in the Immigration Clinic, students represent indigent clients in court and work on collaborative projects aimed at advancing the rights and dignity of immigrants. Students interested in applying for a Miami Law clinic should visit their website and click on the "Apply Now" button. The deadline to join next academic year's clinic is March 2. For the summer clinic, students are admitted on a rolling basis after receipt of their application.