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Immigration Law Students Contribute to Human Rights Report

May 13, 2020

Students in the Transformative Immigration Law course contributed to a human rights report published on April 22, 2020. The report addresses the issue of youths separated from their families and detained by ICE for months in juvenile detention facilities in Washington and at the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR).

“Despite the risks COVID-19 poses, especially to those in detention, ICE has failed to release migrant youth that it separated months ago from their parents and detained in the Cowlitz County juvenile detention facility,” the report states. The report is the result of a unique collaboration between the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR), directed by Angelina Godoy, and the Transformative Immigration Law course at Lewis & Clark Law School taught by Professor Juliet Stumpf.

The report shares the results of ongoing research on the detention of noncitizen children in these facilities. Their research suggests that in facilitating family separation and the indefinite detention of children without access to due process protections, these facilities and ICE violate international human rights standards, the U.S. Constitution, and Washington and Oregon state law.

As a result of this work, ICE’s prolonged detention of these kids was a prominent part of a preliminary injunction motion filed on April 22, 2020, in the Flores v. Barr litigation seeking the release of kids congregated in administrative detention due to COVID-19.

“Even further, the students’ work has resulted in a letter seeking the release of the children to their parents due to the pandemic and a motion for release on bond,” stated Professor Stumpf. “We’re hopeful that immigration officials will see the need to protect children from COVID-19 and release them back to their families.”

Four law students, Ruth Campbell ’21, Jessica Gutierrez ’21, CJ Fuenzalida Nuńez ’21, and Madeline Wilson ’20, researched and co-authored the underlying project that led to the report. The four students analyzed the cutting edge of the law on family separation and detention of youth, conducted interviews, researched the conditions under which children were held, and drafted the legal memo that became the basis for the human rights report. All students are credited as contributors in the report’s first footnote.

“The report that came out of the students’ incredible work has already made a tremendous impact, bringing public attention to the separation of immigrant youth from their families and their prolonged detention in juvenile detention facilities—for months and even years,” stated Professor Stumpf.

Two of the students who worked on the project, Campbell and Gutierrez, were simultaneously working closely with the juveniles through the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, where Professor Aliza Kaplan has pioneered crimmigration representation in Oregon as part of the Clinic’s collaboration with Metropolitan Public Defender’s Community Law Division. The students’ work through the Clinic was critical to getting access to information and declarations in the case. The work also played a critical role in connecting the youth to national litigation over immigration officials’ detention of children and family separation.

The project brought together attorneys from the American Immigration Council, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the UC Davis Immigration Clinic, ACLU-WA, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Columbia Legal Services, the Innovation Law Lab, and Metropolitan Public Defender.

“The team’s memo and the resulting human rights report has informed the press and the public of an issue that has been hidden in plain sight,” Professor Stumpf said.

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