Skip to main content

Winning an Immigration Case

multidisciplinary approach works

The Boston College Immigration and Asylum Project (BCIAP) and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) earned a legal victory in a complicated immigration case last winter, winning “cancellation of removal” for a young Liberian woman threatened with deportation.

Human Rights Program Director Professor Daniel Kanstroom attributed the success to the multi-disciplinary approach of the Immigration Clinic and BC’s new Center for Human Rights and International Justice, which engaged the help not only of law students but also a student from the School of Social Work. “Believe me, this is as challenging a case as anyone has ever taken on,” Kanstroom said.

Mary Holper ’03, the CLINIC/BCIAP staff attorney, represented the woman, known here as Ms. K, and was assisted in court by Tara Slepkow ’07. Law students helped prepare briefs in support of Ms. K and the social work student found various treatment programs for the woman, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

Ms. K came to the US as a lawful permanent resident in 1991. Former BCIAP fellow Alexandra Dufresne met her in July 2005 at a regional county jail in North Dartmouth, where she’d been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after receiving a suspended sentence for shoplifting, an “aggravated felony” and deportable offense, according to federal immigration law. Dufresne filed an application for asylum and withholding of removal, citing the persecution that Ms. K would suffer in Liberia because of her ethnicity if she were deported.

In December, the case was presented before a Boston immigration judge, who granted the discretionary waiver of deportation, and the government agreed not to appeal. The judge and the government lawyer specifically noted the high-quality, multi-disciplinary presentation of the case by Holper and Slepkow. Ms. K was released that day and rejoined her family in Providence, Rhode Island.

According to Kanstroom, this was, “absolutely first-rate legal work…They have literally saved this young woman’s life, bringing her back from the brink of a tragic deportation, getting her released from federal custody, and developing a workable treatment and life plan for her.”

This kind of interdisciplinary work represents the focus of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, which was established last fall and is housed at the Law
School. Under the direction of Flatley Professor of Catholic Theology David Hollenbach, SJ, the center aims to take a more comprehensive approach to human rights issues that traditionally have been viewed through the prism of law.

“We normally think of human rights as something that’s concerned with the law, but it’s really about suffering and how we respond to suffering in its multiple dimensions: physical, psychic, and political, among others,” Hollenbach said. “We want to take a very strongly humanistic approach to these questions and that’s part of the Jesuit university commitment to approaching issues from a deeply human level.”

The center’s three associate directors are Kanstroom (Law), Professor Donald Hafner (Political Science), and Professor M. Brinton Lykes (Lynch School of Education).

—Tiffany Wilding-White
With excerpts from the Boston College Chronicle, October 6, 2005, and from a report by Daniel Kanstroom


Other articles from In Brief:

A Banner Year for Oral Advocacy
Generational Powerhouse
Legal Epiphany Saves the Day
More Stories from In Brief