Immigration Project

The IHR Clinic represents clients in United States immigration court who are at risk of being deported to their country origin where they would face persecution or torture. Many of these individuals suffered persecution or torture prior to their arrival in the United States. The IHR Clinic receives many of its cases through the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), a non-profit organization that provides and facilitates legal services for indigent and low-income immigrants.  

Students draft a legal brief and represent detained persons before the Board of Immigration Appeals who, in most instances, have lost their case before an immigration judge and are appealing that decision. In some cases, the client may have won, but the Department of Homeland Security has appealed the decision. In each instance, the clients are attempting to stop the United States from deporting them on the basis that they will be persecuted or tortured in their country of origin. The IHR Clinic argues under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, among other laws, for a stay of removal or deportation.

IHR Clinic Victory in Case Involving Jamaican Man Likely to be Tortured if Deported

In spring 2013, students in the IHR Clinic represented a Cleveland man from Jamaica in the Cleveland Immigration Court. The man, referred to here as Mr. H, feared being deported to Jamaica, where he was likely to be tortured and killed. A violent gang that tortured him in 2003, shortly after killing his parents and brother, was likely to terrorize him again if he had to return. Judge Thomas Janas of Cleveland Immigration Court agreed with the clinic’s argument that Mr. H could not be deported because, as party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the United States is prohibited from sending anyone to a country where he or she will be tortured.

Professor Sital Kalantry and recent University of Chicago Law alumnae Kimberly Rhoten, '13 and Tessa Walker, '13  represented Mr. H in court. The United States government has decided not to appeal the decision. Professor Kalantry had worked on the case since August 2012, when she was a clinical professor at Cornell University Law School. She brought the case with her when she came to the University of Chicago Law School in January.  

The journey was long and difficult for Mr. H. He first entered the United States in 1996 and was married to a United States citizen in 2001. Not long after, his family in Jamaica became the targets of a gang called the Shower Posse because their home was located in a politically strategic neighborhood. Mr. H’s mother worked for the People’s National Party (PNP), which opposed the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP). The Shower Posse supports the JLP.  Mr. H said that JLP members ran families who didn’t agree with them out of their homes, using violence when necessary. Mr. H’s family died violently while he was in the United States; his parents were shot and his brother burned alive.  

Mr. H was deported in the summer of 2003 and captured by the Shower Posse. He was taken to a house, beaten with guns, tied him to a chair, and told to await his execution at dawn. Mr. H managed to get free of his restraints and escape. In December of that year, he tried to reenter the United States but was sent back to Jamaica by authorities. A few days later, he successfully reentered the United States. In 2011, Mr. H pled guilty to two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and was imprisoned. Mr. H said that he agreed to give someone who was trafficking marijuana a car ride in exchange for $50. He testified against the other defendants and received a reduced sentence. When he went to prison, his undocumented status was revealed and deportation proceedings began.

In May of 2012, in a hearing in which Mr. H appeared pro se, Judge Janas granted deferral of his deportation under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, Department of Homeland Security appealed the decision and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) remanded the case back to the immigration judge to consider supplemental information.

The BIA raised several questions on its appeal, all of which were answered by the IHR Clinic. The BIA asked why Mr. H did not express a fear for his life when he was turned away from the United States at Chicago O’Hare Airport in December 2003. The IHR Clinic responded that Mr. H did not know he had any opportunity to file an application for relief at that time, and no immigration officer offered him the option. The BIA also questioned the length of time since Mr. H had a run-in with the Shower Posse—10 years— and whether the threat had passed. The IHR Clinic brought in country conditions experts to prove that it indeed had not and that Jamaica was just as dangerous for a man in Mr. H’s position now as it was then. It was also shown that law enforcement would be likely to cooperate with gangs looking for Mr. H. The BIA also asked if relocation was possible. The country conditions expert explained that because of the small size of Jamaica (about the size of Connecticut) it was not possible for Mr. H to hide from the Shower Posse, which remains powerful throughout the country.

Following the ruling, the government decided not to appeal a second time.