Because of the complexity of immigration cases, the ultimate victory—receiving an approved green card, visa application, or asylum—may not come for several years. Throughout this process, however, the Clinic continues to work hard on a client’s case and secures other victories along the way. One of these victories is to end the case against a client in immigration court. In just the last year, the Clinic has successfully won motions to administratively close or terminate removal proceedings for ten clients from around the world.
Students get firsthand experience in this process by drafting motions to administratively close or terminate removal proceedings. Over the last year, at least one student drafted and submitted a motion for administrative closure or termination each semester in addition to their other casework.
“There is so much joy and satisfaction accompanied with writing a motion that causes lasting, positive change in another’s life,” said David Keirstead, J.D. ’22. “I was able to affect real change in the world. I wasn’t analyzing a fictional fact pattern or memorizing cue cards. I wrote a motion for a real person. This was why I went to law school, so that I could become a lawyer and help someone in need.”
When they first seek services from the Clinic, about one-fourth of all the Clinic’s clients have cases before the immigration court. Immigration court cases begin when ICE issues a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) to a noncitizen. The NTA outlines the provisions of the Immigration & Nationality Act that ICE alleges have been violated by the noncitizen. After the NTA is issued, ICE must prove the allegations in immigration court, where the noncitizen argues why they should be allowed to stay in the United States.
However, there are many forms of immigration status that Clinic clients qualify for that are not—and cannot be—decided by the court, and are instead under the jurisdiction of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). These forms of status include visas for survivors of crime and forms of status for abused and neglected children. In these situations, the Clinic works with the client to apply for these other forms of status, then seeks to close the case in immigration court so that the client does not have to keep returning to the court while they have a claim pending before USCIS.
In other cases, the Clinic seeks prosecutorial discretion for clients. Some clients may have circumstances that make them not a priority for the government to deport, such as a child undergoing critical medical care. In that instance, it may be appropriate for ICE to “drop the charges” against the client.
“Motions for administrative closure and for prosecutorial discretion not only provide excellent opportunities for our students to dive into real-life legal practice but – when granted – these motions truly change a client’s life,” said Professor Stacy Kern-Scheerer. “Although these decisions do not often make headlines, they ensure our clients will be able to live in safety and security while pursuing a path to legal status.”
Experiences like these for students are made possible by the Clinic’s generous supporters. You can give more students these opportunities by donating to the Immigration Clinic.