Cooley clinic gains release of detained immigrants

 Members of the Cooley clinic with Somali asylee Mohamed Burale Ahmed after his release from detention; (left to right) Shereen Asafo-Adjei, Katie Fish, Juan Gutierrez, Tahir Cheema, Ruby Kaur, Mario Macias, Jillian O'Brien, Somali asylee Mohamed Burale Ahmed , Raquel Munoz, and Professor Jason Eyster.

Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic has won the release of three detainees, who were being held while their immigration status was determined. In the past month, the clinic won asylum for a refugee from Somalia, gained the release of a Mexican father with four U.S. citizen children, and withheld the removal of a refugee from Iraq. Through the clinic, Cooley students work under the supervision of Cooley professor and director of the clinic, Jason Eyster.

Cooley’s Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic provides civil advocacy and immigration assistance to indigent immigrants living in southeast Michigan. Law students in the clinic have helped clients with civil matters, such as landlord/tenant issues, debt collection, wage claims, child custody, and name changes. They have represented clients in immigration court, at interviews conducted by officials of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cooley student Jason Werkema wrote the brief that resulted in the grant of asylum to Mohamed Burale Ahmed, a Somali refugee. Ahmed entered the United States in September 2013 seeking asylum at the Texas border, was placed in detention and subsequently flown to Michigan. Ahmed was given three weeks to prepare for a formal hearing before an immigration judge. Lacking an attorney, he failed to establish his asylum claim and inadvertently waived his right to appeal. 

Eyster met Ahmed while Cooley students were interviewing an existing client at the Monroe County Jail. Eyster committed the clinic to vacating the waiver of appeal and pursuing Ahmed’s asylum. 

On June 27, Cooley student Ruby Kaur represented Ahmed in immigration court where the judge changed his original ruling, granting Ahmed asylum. The client was released from jail after being detained for nine months.

“For all of us in court that day, the recollection of our client’s huge smile on understanding the judge’s ruling will long warm our hearts,” said Eyster. 

Cooley’s clinic also recently saw a favorable conclusion of a case involving a long-term resident of the United States, who has four U.S. citizen children, and had been detained for a year as he fought removal to Mexico. The clinic began representation in 2013, appealing the immigration judge’s denial release twice to the board of appeals in Falls Church, Virginia. Law student Juan Gutierrez representation for the client led to a grant of release by the judge. Gutierrez was assisted by Raquel Munoz, a law fellow at the clinic. 

The clinic’s third victory in immigration court involved Cooley student Shereen Asasfo-Adjai who solicited testimony from the clinic’s client, a 25 year-old Iraqi woman, and a witness, then discussed the legal issues during an extensive hearing. On the basis of this testimony and the documentary evidence, the judge granted withholding of removal for the client. Cooley student Jillian O’Brien assisted Asasfo-Adjai.

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