Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic 

Crimmigration Clinic Instructor Phil Torrey with students Joy Lee ’19 and Harry Larson ’19

The Crimmigration Clinic won a case before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on behalf of a lawful permanent resident that immigration officials were trying to deport. The client, who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, will now be released from detention where he has been held for more than a year and he will be allowed to remain in the United States with his family.

The Crimmigration Clinic took on the case in September while it was pending at the BIA, which is the administrative appellate body responsible for immigration-related appeals. Crimmigration Clinic students Harry Larson ’19 and Joy Lee ’19 worked tirelessly over the last two months to draft a brief incorporating a range of legal arguments they developed on the client’s behalf.

Students who participate in the Crimmigration Clinic have the opportunity to represent individuals facing removal because of a criminal record. The Clinic’s Managing Attorney, Philip Torrey, noted that “these cases are incredibly complex and require students to develop strong legal research and writing skills to effectively represent individuals who would otherwise be trying to navigate the deportation system alone.”

The client was facing deportation because of an old Arizona drug-related conviction that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) argued triggered a provision under federal immigration law that required his removal. The immigration judge who initially reviewed the case disagreed with ICE and terminated the client’s removal proceedings; however, the case was appealed to the BIA where ICE argued that the immigration statute had been misinterpreted by the immigration judge. The brief filed by Larson and Lee argued that the statute had been applied correctly based on precedent from the Supreme Court and other jurisdictions.

“In class, you read cases that seem to lay out certain clear legal rules. What this case taught me is that those rules, in the abstract, don’t necessarily compel compliance: that you need advocacy all the way down to keep government within the bounds of the law,” said Larson.

Lee added that she was “grateful for the opportunity to directly apply the skills and case law that we learned in class to protect our client from deportation.”