Immigration Clinic Helps Somali Obtain Legal Residence in the U.S.

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Less than one year after obtaining a classwide stay of removal for 92 Somalis who faced torture in their home country, the Immigration Clinic and co-counsel are seeing the fruits of their labor. With the help of the clinic and pro bono counsel across the country, dozens of Somalis have had their immigration cases reopened, permitting them to apply for the right to remain lawfully in the United States. 

Margaux Bacro-Duverger, Immigration Clinic intern, and a client.

One of these individuals is a clinic client named Ismail. At the age of seven, Ismail fled Somalia’s civil war with his father. After living in a refugee camp in Kenya for several years, he entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident when he was 12 years old. As a teenager, Ismail began using drugs to cope with the physical abuse suffered as a child in Somalia and Kenya. The drug abuse led to two criminal convictions for which he served no jail time.

Nonetheless, Ismail was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a result of those convictions and placed into deportation proceedings. With no resources to hire an attorney, he was forced to represent himself in immigration court, where the judge denied Ismail’s request to cancel his removal to Somalia and keep his green card despite his family ties to an extended period of residence in the U.S. In December 2017, Ismail found himself on a flight to Somalia, a war-torn country to which he no longer has any ties. 

After the botched flight returned to the U.S. and the clinic stepped in, the government reopened Ismail’s case. Students Tatyana Krimus, 3L, and Margaux Bacro- Duverger, 2L, represented Ismail in his new proceedings. After an emotional trial, Ismail left the court with his lawful permanent residence restored. 

“I am very relieved that my life is no longer in danger,” Ismail said. “I am very thankful and appreciate everything the students and the clinic did for me. Thanks to the clinic, I am now a free man in Iowa.”

The students gained an appreciation for the difference they can make as lawyers. “The case was an amazing way for me to see firsthand the impact our laws have on real people,” Bacro-Duverger said. “Working the case was certainly a challenge, but a fulfilling one, and I am happy I was given the opportunity to help our client.” 

In addition to Ismail, the clinic helped a young mother facing permanent separation from her 3-year-old U.S.-citizen son to reclaim her lawful permanent resident status as well as obtaining a release for several other clinic clients with reopened cases from detention. 

“The results of the lawsuit have exceeded even our expectations,” said Romy Lerner, the clinic’s associate director. "It’s incredibly gratifying for the students and faculty alike to see their clients, once on the brink of deportation, return home to family in the United States. 

More on the Immigration Clinic.