What’s Happening in the Immigration Clinic?
Immigration Clinic Director Teresa Messer accepted the Mayor’s Community Engagement Award on behalf of the University of Houston Law Center for its community service contributions to the City of Houston.
Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, Clinic Supervising Attorney, Parker Sheffy, Clinic students, Lorena Gaona, Tamilla Suleymanova, Matt Endsley, Alla Smirnova, former Clinic student Elisa Tavera, and Clinic intern, Christopher Hernandez, volunteered as Friends of the Court for the Houston Immigration Court. The Friend of the Court program assists the Immigration Court by providing pro se respondents information about the immigration court process including information about their legal rights and responsibilities.
Clinic students volunteered at the 2023 Joseph A. Vail Asylum Law Workshop.
Immigration Clinic students, Stephanie Melgar Garcia, Sai Gudapati, and Alyssa Craze-Awbrey, under the supervision of Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, volunteered at the Boat People SOS Citizenship Forum where they assisted Lawful Permanent Residents with their Naturalization applications.
Immigration Clinic students, Grayson Carnahan, Sai Gudapati, and Alyssa Craze-Awbrey, under the supervision of Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, volunteered at the BakerRipley Citizenship Forum where they assisted Lawful Permanent Residents with their Naturalization applications.
The Clinic co-hosted its first ever immigration clinic mixer between all of Houston’s law schools, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston, and the University of Houston Law Center.
Clinic students celebrating their last day of class.
Attendees learned about immigration courts, best practices for representing asylum seekers and navigating federal court appeals at this year’s Joseph A. Vail Asylum Law Workshop.
Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, Clinic Supervising Attorneys, Parker Sheffy and Lucas Aisenberg, and Clinic intern, Christopher Hernandez, volunteered as Friends of the Court for the Houston Immigration Court. The Friend of the Court program assists the Immigration Court by providing pro se respondents information about the immigration court process including information about their rights and responsibilities.Immigration Clinic students, Alyssa Craze-Awbrey and Sai Gudapati, under the supervision of Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, zealously represented two Afghan sisters who are women's rights activists at their asylum interview. The sisters were persecuted by the Taliban for reporting about the Taliban's human rights abuses against Afghan women.
Immigration Clinic students, Christopher Cuevas and Elisa Tavera, under the supervision of Immigration Clinic Director, Teresa Messer, and Clinical Supervising Attorney, Lucas Aisenberg, successfully advocated for their client at her asylum merits hearing.
Immigration Clinic students, Pablo Lopez and Grayson Carnahan, successfully got their client's removal proceedings administratively closed after arguing that the client was a JOP class member and therefore the court did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate his asylum application.
Immigration Clinic students, Sai Gudapati and Cesar Rivera Infante, zealously advocated for an Afghan man seeking asylum protection from the Taliban's oppression.
Clinic students, Pablo Lopez and Grayson Carnahan, preparing an asylum seeker for his merits hearing.
Clinic students, Narmada Sapkota and Stephanie Melgar Garcia, preparing an asylum seeker for her merits hearing.
Professor Lucas Aisenberg represented a trans Guatemalan woman who fled her home country after suffering sexual violence at the hands of various individuals throughout her life. She attempted to enter the United States but was placed in MPP, forcing her to remain for months on end in a Mexican border town. Professor Aisenberg assisted her in filing an application for asylum with the tent immigration courts at the border and assisted her in requesting her parole into the U.S. After waiting a few days, the Department of Homeland Security granted her parole into the U.S., where she has been living ever since. Resulting from the Biden Administration’s policy implementation of prosecutorial discretion in immigration relief applications, Professor Aisenberg successfully negotiated with the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA - ICE - DHS) a joint request to the Immigration Court to grant her asylum. During the summer of 2021, the Immigration Judge granted the client asylum pursuant to the joint request, permitting the client to remain in safety in the United States.
Further pursuant to the Biden prosecutorial discretion directive, Professor Aisenberg and students from the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semester successfully got OPLA-ICE to agree to dismiss the removal proceedings of approximately a dozen individuals who faced deportation. In most of these instances, the clients were “unaccompanied minors,” so the dismissal in court allowed them to continue to pursue their asylum applications before USCIS, as permitted by the TVPRA.
Professor Parker Sheffy represented a woman who was granted Adjustment of Status before the Immigration Judge based upon her marriage to a US citizen, after successfully representing her before the Board of Immigration Appeals on appeal. She entered the U.S. in 2010 from Mexico fleeing horrific circumstances inflicted by the local head of a transnational drug cartel. After a series of delays before the Immigration Court due to backlog, Professor Sheffy represented her before the Immigration Judge in 2018; However, Matter of A-B- I was issued after oral argument and before the Immigration Judge issued their decision. Her asylum claim was denied squarely upon the change in law brought by Matter of A-B- I. Thereafter, she married her US citizen husband with whom she gave birth to their US citizen son. The Clinic, including prior student Aletsey Hinojosa, represented the client and her husband and filed an I-130 Petition and a Motion to Remand that satisfied the exacting Matter of Coehlo standard on the client’s behalf. Following the change in administration and Attorney General Garland’s issuance of Matter of A-B- III, Professor Sheffy filed an appeal brief predicated upon this change in law, which was granted Spring 2022. While her case remained pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals, her I-130 Petition was approved in reliance upon the bona fide marriage exemption. The Board of Immigration Appeals ordered her case be remanded to the Immigration Court, where she was able to successfully adjust status and become a Lawful Permanent Resident this summer of 2022.
During Spring 2021, a team of students and Professor Sheffy filed a Petition for Review to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a woman who was ordered removed in absentia by the San Antonio Immigration Court—despite never receiving a Notice of Hearing. In fact, the client did not become aware she was ever in removal proceedings until she filed an application to Adjust Status based upon an approved I-130 Petition as the mother to a US citizen. A student team and Professor Sheffy then submitted opening briefing. While a decision from Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remained pending, the change in administration brought the reintroduction of Prosecutorial Discretion. During Fall 2021, the Clinic obtained a favorable exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion, successfully inviting Immigration and Customs Enforcement to file a Joint Motion to Reopen and Terminate. Upon the Board’s granting of the joint motion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal. Thus, there was no longer a removal order and the client was able to move forward with her Adjustment of Status.
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