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UH Law Center’s Immigration Clinic helps pro bono firm notch Fifth Circuit win

Chiqui Sanchez Kennedy, Executive Director and co-founder of the Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project takes an asylum case to the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals with the assistance from UHLC’s Immigration Clinic.

Chiqui Sanchez Kennedy, Executive Director and co-founder of the Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project takes an asylum case to the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals with the assistance from UHLC’s Immigration Clinic.

Feb. 22, 2024 —The Fifth Circuit of Appeals handed down a favorable decision in January to the Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project on an unaccompanied minor case. The University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic, while under the leadership of former director Geoffrey Hoffman, helped advise on the matter.

“I was elated by the decision,” said Chiqui Sanchez Kennedy, Executive Director and co-founder of the Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project. “It was really emotional because we had been working so hard. The level of resources it takes to fight these cases to this level is really difficult for one person to do.

“This was something that was so clearly a violation of a person’s rights. So many people were involved in this case at some point. UH Law Center students, Geoffrey Hoffman and many other people — practitioners and organizations were weighing in and strategizing with us.”

Sanchez Kennedy served as the lead counsel on the case. Her client entered the U.S. alone in April 2020 after having an asylum hearing with a parent denied in January 2020. The individual returned out of concern for their personal circumstance in their home country. After receiving access to legal services in a shelter, they were abruptly deported to their country of origin before the case came to finality.

“When minors enter the U.S. alone, they are immediately protected by child-specific laws - particularly the TVPRA,” Sanchez Kennedy said. “Instead, they were deported in the middle of the night, before anybody could decide anything. They were denied all the rights that they were afforded.” 

Sanchez Kennedy requested to reopen the case based on due process violations and new evidence, which was denied. She filed a petition for review at the Fifth Circuit, asking the court to intervene, which was when she contacted Hoffman for support on a briefing.

“At the time it was happening, I thought it was a very clear wrongful, illegal deportation,” she said. “The substantive arguments related to the motion to reopen also warranted re-opening. This decision will be helpful for immigrant children in the future, particularly if border enforcement policies seek to strip children of their express due process rights.”

Click here to learn more about the Galveston-Houston Immigration Representation Project.

About the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic

The University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic was founded in 1999 by Joseph Vail, a former immigration judge and UHLC professor. The clinic has since developed into one of the largest in the nation, specializing in handling asylum applications for victims of torture and persecution, representing victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and crime, and helping those fleeing civil war, genocide or political repression, as well as those facing other immigration-related matters in federal court. Clinic students are assigned a variety of cases under direct faculty supervision and are responsible for handling initial interviews through the conclusion of the case, including trial. Students also assist organizations that serve the immigrant community and give individual assistance to those held in immigration detention centers.

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