Somali 92: Clinic and Community Collaborations to Defend Detainees on ICE Air

CLE Discussion of Shackled
May 29, 2024, 1:00 to 2:30 pm
Walter F. Mondale Hall

University of Minnesota Law School
229 19th Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Book cover of Shackled

In the early morning hours of December 7, 2017, U.S. immigration authorities chained the  wrists, waists, and legs of 92 people at a private prison in Louisiana. Masked ICE special ops  officers boarded them onto a contract plane, attempting to deport them by plane to Somalia. The  flight never reached Somalia. Instead, the plane was grounded on the tarmac in  Senegal. The ICE officers told the passengers that the plane needed a repair and forced them to stay seated and shackled for 24 hours. Ultimately, the ICE Air flight returned to the United States, landing in Miami. When the national media broke the story, government officials lied about what happened.

A coalition of advocates rushed to interview the  passengers, and document the abuse. The team was led by the University of Miami and Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami, and, in Minnesota, The University of Minnesota’s Binger Center for New Americans and The Advocates for Human Rights. The team of lawyers, law students and law professors filed a class action lawsuit and won a stay of deportation from the U.S. District Court that lasted for over a year. See Ibrahim v. Assistant Field Office Director,  Case No. 17-cv-24574 (SDFL 2019). The collaborative efforts also secured nonprofit or pro bono  attorneys for every person on the flight that wanted to try to reopen their deportation case. Many individuals continue to fight for relief from removal in immigration court.

Law students were an integral part of the advocacy. In all, over 50 students helped by  interviewing clients, drafting motions to reopen, and defending the passengers in immigration  court. These press releases from University of Minnesota Law School and University of Miami  School of Law document the pivotal role that law students from those two schools, as well as Duke  Law School and St. Thomas University College of Law, played in the process. 

The new book Shackled: 92 Refugees Imprisoned on ICE Air, written by Professor Rebecca Sharpless, memorialized the journey of two individuals and the collaborative legal advocacy. Shackled tells the story of this harrowing failed deportation, the resulting class action litigation, and two men's search for safety in the United States over the course of three long years.

The Group of 92 advocacy exemplifies how clinics can work in coalition with each other legal service providers, even leading the coalition in fast-paced, complex litigation. At the same time,  the advocacy meaningfully contributes to our understanding of the limitations of such advocacy,  providing an unvarnished view of litigation, including the pitfalls, hard choices, and inevitable  mistakes associated with advocating for a group.  Join Professor Sharpless and members of the Minnesota legal team for a discussion of the collaborative effort.

Video with more information


CLE Credits
1.5 on-demand CLE credits have been requested, pending event code: #508604

Coffee Reception to Follow in Auerbach Commons

Parking Information
Rebecca Sharpless

Rebecca Sharpless, Immigration Attorney and Professor, University of Miami School of Law


Michele Garnett McKenzie ‘96

 Deputy Director, The Advocates for Human Rights

Theresa Dykoschak

Pro Bono Director, The Advocates for Human Rights

Mary Georgevich ‘18

Adjunct Faculty at Minnesota Law, Senior Litigation Attorney, National Immigrant Justice Center

Daniel Supalla

 Attorney, Nilan Johnson Lewis

Sarah Brenes