April 9, 2010
Habeas corpus victory for Asylum and Human Rights Clinic
The Boston University Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, working with alumna Elizabeth Badger (’05) of Human Rights USA, succeeded on March 18 in a petition for habeas corpus in the District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The client is a stateless Palestinian convicted under the broad material support for terrorism provisions of the USA Patriot Act. His computer company had worked with one of the Muslim charities the U.S. government has charged as a terrorist organization. "The client had worked with the charity prior to its designation as such," explained Professor Susan Akram. "Given his convictions and statelessness, we anticipated that the government would deem him non-removable, but subject to indefinite detention under 8 C.F.R. sec. 241.14."
The client had been held in immigration detention for 13 months, seven months past what the U.S. Supreme Court has determined to be a “presumptively reasonable period of detention in order to effectuate removal” in Zadvydas v. Davis.
In fall 2009, BU Law authorized the legal team to pursue the case, with the goal to free him from "indefinite immigration detention." Professor Akram worked alongside her student attorneys Jennifer Klein ('10) and Emily Tucker ('10), and with co-counsel Attorney Badger, mostly communicating with their client via conference calls and mail.
The client, detained in York, Penn., was not fighting his removal order. In order to help facilitate his removal, the client had applied to dozens of countries for a visa only to be rejected. It was also legally impossible for him to return to Israel or Palestine. “However, the government continued to argue that he was removable and that they had the right to continue to detain him even though they chose not to invoke the controversial national security regulations regarding indefinite detention,” said Klein.
In the end, Judge Muir of the Middle District of Pennsylvania agreed that the government could not meet its burden of showing his removal was reasonably foreseeable, and ordered the client's release within the next three weeks.
"We did not know how long the litigation would last, or what the government’s real interests were in keeping the client detained," said Akram. "Our client, his family and our legal team are too thrilled for words. Kudos particularly to student attorneys Klein and Tucker, with whom we worked closely in D.C., and our client's family, who were with us every step of the way."
Students in the Civil Litigation Program's AHR Clinic work for credit under the supervision of two full-time BU clinical faculty in the offices of Greater Boston Legal Services in downtown Boston. Students represent asylum seekers affirmatively in front of the U.S.C.I.S. (Department of Homeland Security), in removal proceedings before Immigration Court (Department of Justice), in appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or the Circuit Court of Appeals, and in claims for release from immigration detention before the Federal District Courts. Students also handle Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases, temporary restraining orders in Probate and Family Court, and other immigration, humanitarian, and human rights-related cases. Because detained cases can take a long time to complete, and require significantly more student and supervisor resources than non-detained cases, the clinic does not handle more than one or two detained cases at any time. The clinic has a docket of two dozen cases, in different stages of administrative proceedings or litigation.