Minnesota Law

Fall 2023

Detainee Rights Clinic Client Wins Asylum Case

One of the Detainee Rights Clinic’s Very First Clients Has Been Granted Asylum

Detainee Rights Clinic students Nicole Carter '24, Haley Wallace '23, and Anna Schlendl '24

Students in the Detainee Rights Clinic (DRC) recently scored a major victory for a client formerly from El Salvador who has been seeking asylum for nearly a decade.

The clinic began representing the person in 2014, one of its first clients. Clinic leaders secured the person’s release from detention to stay deportation. Over the next few years, students worked with faculty to win an appeal at the Board of Immigration that opened a pathway for asylum.

Two years ago, law students Haley Wallace ’23, rising 3L Nicole Carter, and rising 3L Anna Schlendl took on the task of preparing for a final immigration hearing, held this past March.

“These students worked hard to develop a relationship with the client, which became absolutely crucial to the success of the case,” says Professor Linus Chan, Director of the Detainee Rights Clinic at the Law School’s Center for New Americans. “Through their good work of establishing rapport, they earned the trust of the client. They took the time to truly understand the trauma and persecution the client had endured and were confident in making the argument in front of the Immigration Court.”

In March, the Immigration Court granted asylum. And importantly, says Chan, the government recognized the level of trauma and declined to appeal the ruling.

“My biggest takeaway from this case is the importance of the attorney-client relationship,” says Wallace. “I worked on the case for two years, and spent a lot of time building a safe, honest, and trusting relationship with the client. I think the relationship we built was what ultimately led to winning asylum.”

Chan also notes that the excellent work of the students made an expensive hearing unnecessary. “These students were persistent and searched far and wide for experts,” he says. “They produced and incredible brief, with the support of adjunct Laura Wilson, and expressed a powerful level of compassion, which made all the difference and kept a family of six together.”

Wallace says that working on the case was the most rewarding experience she had in law school.“I always encourage other law student to do clinics,” she says. “There is no better way to prepare for being a lawyer than by doing the work. On this case, I got to develop a relationship with a client, draft briefs and motions to file in court, and argue a case in front of a judge. That experience is invaluable.”

Carter said that she learned a great deal about asylum through researching and writing the brief for the case and preparing for court. “I'm just really glad the client was able to receive the safety and peace of mind they deserve.” 

The Detainee Rights Clinic provides students multifaceted opportunities to represent noncitizens facing removal from the United States who are detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) facilities in the Twin Cities area. Students learn substantive immigration law, Minnesota criminal law, and criminal procedure, as well as administrative legal remedies and relief that are available to those facing removal from the U.S.