Students at Georgia State Law’s new immigration clinic have won their first hearing for their client in the Atlanta Immigration Court.
The Cruz Espitia (JD ’21) and Haley Solomon (JD ’22) student team represented a young woman who came to the United States from Guatemala at the age of 15. Clinical supervisor Will Miller only helped students prepare once in the courtroom, they handled everything including admitting evidence, face-to-face examination, and final arguments.
“Our client was overwhelmed by emotions after hearing the hearing,” Miller said. “The work of Haley and Cruz literally changed their lives. The client getting her green card is and should be the headline, but Cruz and Haley’s performance at our very first hearing, which was signaled to the Atlanta Immigration Court, found the clinic is bringing serious cases backed by serious advocates. “
The client, referred to the clinic by the Latin American Association, had waited four and a half years for her court day. Espitia and Solomon started working on their case earlier this fall semester. They quickly became familiar with the Immigrant Youth Status Act, which formed the basis for applying for the client’s green card. In the weeks leading up to the hearing, the students identified, gathered, and submitted all necessary evidence to the immigration court.
“I was hired to deliver the final argument in court so I had to make sure I was fully prepared,” Espitia said. “I wrote my final argument and practiced it over and over. I practiced in my living room, drove home and to school, and when I was ironing my clothes for testing. Our client’s case was just too important to me not to invest enough time to make sure I came up with the best final argument in her favor in court. “
After a strenuous journey, the immigration judge approved her application for legal permanent residence or a green card. In five years she will be granted US citizenship.
“This has been the best experience of my legal career so far,” said Solomon. “At times I was concerned that my relative inexperience would make me the best attorney possible for my client, but that experience taught me that with hard work and preparation, I can be a strong attorney and help my client achieve yours Aims. The best part of the experience was the look on the client’s face as the judge announced that he would grant her request for status adjustment – she beamed! This is an experience I’m sure to take with me for the rest of my legal career. “
The Immigration Clinic opened in January 2020 to address the shortage of immigration attorneys and the backlog in immigration cases in Georgia. The clinic currently represents twelve clients in various cases, including asylum, the T-visa (human trafficking survivor) and youth status for special immigrants. For more information, see law.gsu.edu/immigration.
Written by Kelundra Smith