Legal clinic assists alumna in win of decade-old case

A 2010 alumna, the Coastal Law Legal Clinic Fellow, and the school’s Immigrant Rights Clinic recently made headlines after receiving the decision that their client, a mother of six and U.S. resident for 25 years, had been granted permanent residency in the United States.

The immigrant mother was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then transferred to an immigration defense facility – the Baker County Jail – after being arrested for violating a noise ordinance and resisting arrest without violence. There she encountered Coastal Law alumna Karen Winston at one of her free “Know Your Rights” presentations, provided as part of Jacksonville Area Legal Aide (JALA) and the Baker Defense Project. After attaining the client’s release from detention on bond, Winston sought out the help of the Legal Clinic.

“I thought that this would be an amazing case for students to have the opportunity to work on,” said Winston. “For a lot of students this is their first practical experience, and they realize the power they have as future attorneys. They learn that their advocacy and representation of clients really does make a difference.”

To be granted Cancellation of Removal for Non-Lawful Permanent Residents, individuals must prove their qualifying relatives will suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” after deportation. The clinic students, Danitza Gonzales, Collin Coakley, and Eric Ortiz, worked together with Winston and Clinic Fellow Vanessa Bernadotte to research and present a case to the judge.

“It’s nice to see the transformation and the development of their [the students] advocacy and writing,” said Bernadotte. “To see them connect to cases that are focused on helping the indigent population and how that changes them. We hope that once they graduate and start practicing they will think about that population whether it’s in the form of pro bono employment, pro bono representation, or maybe even taking on a case or two.”

Through the hard work and determination of Winston, Bernadotte, and the student clinicians, the immigration judge ruled in the client’s favor, granting her Cancellation of Removal and terminating removal proceedings. The client is now officially a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

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