April 13, 2016 —Attorneys and immigration specialists gathered at the University of Houston Law Center on Friday for the 15th annual Joseph A. Vail workshop that provided information and techniques for dealing with asylum and other issues affecting families and children facing deportation.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants,” Dean Leonard M. Baynes said in his opening remarks. “I am a child of immigrants, and like so many others I am grateful for the opportunities that the United States has afforded me and my family. I am also very proud of the fine work of the Immigration Clinic, and as a public law school, I am delighted that the Vail Workshop brings us together to discuss these thorny legal issues.”
Participants in the day-long workshop included Janet Beck, clinical assistant professor and supervising attorney of the Law Center Immigration Clinic, two retired immigration judges, immigration attorneys, and a mental health expert.
“This topic of asylum affecting families and children is especially relevant given the large numbers of detainees who are currently seeking asylum from Central America,” said Professor Geoffrey A. Hoffman, director of the Immigration Clinic and organizer of the workshop. “Issues surrounding Syrian refugees and those seeking asylum from Syria among other countries make it very important that the public and attorneys are familiar with these claims, as well as our responsibility to appropriately respond to those in need”
A full range of asylum related claims were discussed such as crime victim visas, the Violence Against Women Act, trafficking, and special immigrant juvenile relief.
The workshop included a mock trial with Beck testifying as an expert witness, Susham M. Modi, adjunct professor of law at UHLC, conducting the direct examination, Hoffman cross examining, and retired Immigration Judge Howard E. Rose presiding.
After the mock trial, Rose and retired Immigration Judge William K. Zimmer offered their insights to the attorneys on how to be prepare for trial.
“Know and understand your audience, make sure you have proof and all that is needed to prove every element, and make sure you know what your witness is going to say,” said Rose.
Zimmer suggested tips on how to limit nervousness by getting familiar with the judges and the environment.
The event, which drew about 90 participants, was hosted by the University of Houston Immigration Clinic, Neighborhood Centers, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, BPSOS, South Texas College of Law Asylum and Human Trafficking Clinic, Tahir Justice Center, and the YMCA International Services.
The annual workshop is named in honor of the late Law Center Professor Joseph A. Vail who founded the Immigration Clinic in 1999.
“Joseph Vail was a great man, his passion and his commitment for justice is fundamental to what we do in the clinic every day,” said Hoffman, who introduced all the speakers, and gave the overview and introduction to the entire day's event on asylum law.