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Stanford Law School’s Immigrants' Rights Clinic Argues U.S. Immigration Policy Violates International Human Rights Standards

Publication Date: 
July 18, 2007
Source: 
Stanford Law School

Clinic Files Amicus Brief for Human Rights Watch

Stanford, Calif., July 18, 2007—Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (IRC) has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) arguing that the U.S. immigration policy mandating deportation of legal immigrants convicted of a crime violates international human rights standards. The case is to be heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights July 20 in Washington, D.C.

The IRC submitted a friend of the court brief on behalf of HRW in the cases of Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz, two men who were granted legal permanent residence over two decades ago, but who were recently deported from the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act for drug crimes they committed in their youth. Both men left behind children who are U.S. citizens. Their combined case Smith and Armendariz v. U.S. asks the Commission to find that the mandatory deportation provisions, which were added to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1996, violate the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

“The mandatory deportation provisions of the 1996 immigration laws are inhumane and completely out of line with international standards,” said Jayashri Srikantiah, an associate professor at Stanford Law School and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

Since Congress passed the 1996 reforms, immigration judges have been precluded from considering individual facts—family and community relationships, the rights of children, or claims for refugee protection—in cases involving deportation based on certain criminal convictions.

The hearing coincides with a report just issued by Human Rights Watch, which asserts that “mandatory detention of legal immigrants convicted of a crime, even a minor one, has separated an estimated 1.6 million children and adults, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, from their non-citizen family members.” The report, called “Forced Apart: Families Separated and Immigrants Harmed by U.S. Deportation Laws,” documents deportation cases of non-citizens with criminal convictions and says that U.S. immigration officials have deported just over 670,000 immigrants since 1997 because of a criminal conviction, many of which were minor and non-violent, and often committed before changes to the law took effect.

The author of the report, Alison Parker, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program said, “The laws are not only cruel in their rigidity, they are senseless. How do you explain to a child that her father has been sent thousands of miles away and can never come home because he forged a check?”

The cases were brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2002 by private practice attorney Robert Pauw in tandem with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Center for Global Justice. The Commission determined the cases to be admissible in 2006 and combined them.

The hearing will be held July 20, 2007 at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 1998 F Street, Washington D.C. at 10:15 a.m. in Room A and will be webcast at: www.oas.org. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) created in 1959 for the promotion and protection of human rights. IACHR’s website is at www.cidh.org.

About the IRC’s Amicus Brief on behalf of HRW

The amicus brief argues that U.S. laws imposing mandatory deportation violate Articles V, VI, VII, XVIII, XXVI, and XXVII of the American Declaration. The mandatory deportation of persons convicted of certain, often minor, crimes means that families such as those of Petitioners Smith and Armendariz will be torn apart in violation of Articles V and VI of the American Declaration’s protection of family life and the international human right to family unity. Mandatory deportation also violates the American Declaration’s protection of the private life of non-citizens, which includes non-familial relationships and community ties. U.S. laws fail to consider the best interests of the children of immigrants, in contravention of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Last, U.S. immigration laws that impose refoulement on refugees with criminal convictions violate the American Declaration’s guarantees of due process and the right to seek asylum and the guarantees of the Refugee Convention.

Clinic students Gloria Borges and Lin Yee Chan worked on the amicus brief. A copy of the brief will be available online at the IRC clinic website.

About the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

The Immigrants' Rights Clinic (IRC) at Stanford Law School is committed to protecting the human rights of all non-citizens regardless of immigration status. Clinic Director Jayashri Srikantiah and Jennifer H. Lee, the clinic’s Cooley Godward Kronish Fellow, supervise students on direct services and legal advocacy projects. Students in the clinic represent individual immigrants in a variety of settings and since the clinic’s inception, students have sought humanitarian relief from deportation on behalf of non-citizens with criminal convictions, obtained asylum protection for non-citizens fleeing persecution, and assisted immigrant survivors of domestic violence in gaining lawful status in the United States. The clinic’s website is at: www.law.stanford.edu/clinics/irc.

About the Stanford Legal Clinic

Stanford Law School runs a variety of clinics that litigate in a number of specialized fields, including immigrants’ rights, community law, cyberlaw, environmental protection, and educational advocacy. The clinics operate cohesively as a single law firm—the Stanford Legal Clinic (SLC)—and provide pro bono representation to the public. Clinical courses are structured as supervised settings that teach students: how to work with clients and colleagues, how to address the ethical dilemmas that arise in practice, and how to apply legal concepts taught hypothetically or in the abstract in the classroom to a real world, client representation situation. Overall, the SLC has the capacity for every student to take one clinical course at some point during their three years at Stanford Law School. The school’s long term goal is to expand the number and range of its clinical courses and develop a “clinical rotation” where students take only a clinic during a particular quarter—with no competing exams or classes. Expanding the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and other course offerings within the Stanford Legal Clinic is a central part of the comprehensive curricular innovation underway at Stanford Law School. The Stanford Legal Clinic homepage is located at: www.law.stanford.edu/program/clinics.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching. The school’s home page is located at www.law.stanford.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT

Jayashri Srikantiah
Associate Professor of Law (Teaching) and Director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic
650 724.2442
jsrikantiah@law.stanford.edu

Alternative contacts:

Irma Perez
Legal Assistant
Stanford Legal Clinic
650 724.9086
iperez@law.stanford.edu

Judith Romero
Associate Director of Media Relations
650 723.2232
judith.romero@stanford.edu
www.law.stanford.edu/news

Human Rights Watch Media Liaison

Alison Parker
Senior Researcher
Human Rights Watch
202 612.4321
parkera@hrw.org
http://www.hrw.org