Impact Litigation and Advocacy Work

Students work on a broad range of impact litigation and policy projects. Students have contributed to key litigation to limit the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and to restrict the government’s ability to detain immigrants for prolonged periods of time. Students have also engaged in local and federal regulatory advocacy, legislative work, public education, and other policy work on a broad range of projects to advance the rights of immigrant communities.

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IRC Advocacy: Assisting Detainees Affected By The Institutional Hearing Program

For the last four and a half years, clinic students have engaged in innovative advocacy to assist detainees affected by a fast-track deportation process called Institutional Hearing Program (IHP). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses IHP to initiate removal (deportation) proceedings against noncitizens who are still serving time for criminal convictions.

The clinic’s advocacy focuses on expanding the rights of noncitizens who are placed into IHP. Clinic students have worked to ensure that noncitizens have information about the IHP process; advocated for counsel for detainees; developed advice on how to fight removal cases.


Know Your Rights Materials

Students in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic have created Know-Your-Rights materials, empowering unrepresented immigrants with knowledge and resources to advocate for themselves before ICE and immigration court.

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Class Action and Appellate Litigation

Students have conducted a broad range of impact litigation and advocacy to protect the due process rights of immigrant detainees. Under the U.S. immigration system, the federal government has the authority to detain immigrants during their deportation proceedings. Clinic students have engaged in litigation to ensure that that the government does not detain individuals for prolonged periods of time. They have also advocated for increased use of alternatives to detention and better detention conditions.

Class Action Litigation

Class Action Complaint Filed in Support of Access to Justice: The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic filed a class-action lawsuit against ICE, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and the private prison operator Geo Group, Inc. for creating unlawful barriers to attorney-client communications at ICE detention centers in Southern California. Officials make it nearly impossible for many detainees to contact and consult with attorneys. That violates not only the Immigration and Nationality Act, but also the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Immigrants Rights Clinic petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order to protect confidential attorney-client communications during state and local lockdowns. On April 11, 2020, the judge granted the TRO, which was later converted into a preliminary injunction,  allowing for free, confidential legal calls for detainees during the pandemic.


Bond Appeals for Detained Noncitizens: The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic is co-counsel in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a longstanding challenge to the federal government’s prolonged detention policies. Most recently, after a loss in the Supreme Court, the case was remanded to the Ninth Circuit, and then to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Thanks to the work of the clinic and co-counsel at the ACLU of Southern California and Sidley Austin LLP, immigrants detained in the Los Angeles area receive bond hearings after their detention becomes prolonged at the six-month mark. IRC and our co-counsel continue to litigate the case to protect the rights of immigrant detainees.

Key Opinions in Jennings v. Rodriguez

Burden of Proof Cases

The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic partnered with the Immigrant Defense Project over the past decade to advance an innovative legal argument on behalf of immigrants with past criminal convictions. We argued that, when the record of a past conviction is ambiguous, the conviction should not bar a noncitizen from relief from removal (like asylum). Despite obtaining victories in several courts of appeals, the Supreme Court recently rejected our arguments in Pereida v. Wilkinson.


Freedom of Information Act in District Court

Complaints Filed on Behalf of Community Organizations under the Freedom of Information Act: The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has filed lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) when these government agencies have failed to properly respond to requests to produce documents and information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under FOIA, the public has the right to access records from federal agencies. Records inform the public about the agencies’ policies and practices regarding immigration and detention. IRC has filed lawsuits on behalf of community organizations when DHS and ICE have failed to respond to requests for government agencies’ records.

Advocacy Work

Uncovering New Details about the Government’s Use of Ankle Monitors and Other Alternatives to Detention

The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic filed a Freedom of Information Act Request on behalf of The Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco, Dolores Street Community Services, Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto, Pangea Legal Services, Legal Services for Children, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Immigration Center for Women and Children. The lawsuit has begun to uncover records relating to the Department of Homeland Security’s use of ankle monitors and other alternatives to detention.

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Uncovering the Federal Government’s Billion Dollar Immigration Detention and Bond Operations

The Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic released a report revealing that the federal government’s immigration bond system is a $1.5 billion operation. The report, based on records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, also details that the federal government is holding more than $200 million owed to immigrants and their families.

Immigration Detention and Bond Operations: A Deeply Flawed System