Minnesota Law Clinics Head to the U.S. Supreme Court in Important Immigration Case
Two University of Minnesota Law School clinics—the Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic (FILC) and the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic (CRA Clinic)—have joined together with the Houston-based law firms Gonzalez Olivieri LLC and Waterhouse, Dominguez & Strom PLLC to represent a noncitizen before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Clinics’ client, Mr. Moris Esmelis Campos-Chaves, has called the United States home for nearly two decades and faces removal after the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) commenced removal proceedings against him with a document that did not comply with the law. The Clinics filed their client’s merits brief on Wednesday, October 18, in a case that the Supreme Court will hear and decide this Term.
Mr. Campos-Chaves came to the United States from El Salvador in 2005 and works as a gardener in Texas, where he lives with his wife and two U.S.-citizen children. Shortly after he arrived, DHS gave him a document purporting to initiate removal proceedings against him, but that document did not include the date and time of his hearing, as required by federal immigration law. The immigration court mailed Mr. Campos-Chaves a separate document containing that information months later, and when he did not appear at the hearing, the immigration court issued an order of removal in absentia.
Mr. Campos-Chaves’s case implicates important issues involving whether the government can take the drastic measure of removing individuals from this country despite having failed to comply with mandatory notice requirements that are critical to ensuring noncitizens have due process of law in the removal process. It follows on the heels of two important immigration cases the Supreme Court has decided in the last five years, Pereira v. Sessions and Niz-Chavez v. Garland. In those cases, the Court held that the government’s failure to comply with the statute has significant consequences on DHS’s ability to remove noncitizens. The Supreme Court granted Mr. Campos-Chaves’s petition for certiorari in June and will decide the specific question of whether he may move to rescind the in absentia removal order and reopen his removal proceedings because the notices the government provided were not in compliance with mandatory statutory requirements.
Under the supervision of Nadia Anguiano '17, associate clinical professor of law and the director of FILC, and Elizabeth Bentley, visiting assistant professor of Law and director of the CRA Clinic, six students helped prepare Mr. Campos-Chaves’s merits brief. The students working on the case for FILC are Hannah Grayson '24 , Hans Frank-Holzner '25 , Mallorie Sckerl '24, and Thaameran Sarveswaran '25; the students for the CRA Clinic are Earl Lin '24 and E. Isabel Park '24. Working on Mr. Campos-Chaves’s case has been deeply meaningful to the students. Frank-Holzner reflected on how the experience related to his own pursuit of a legal education, stating, "My own family's experience with the American immigration system was a big factor in driving me to pursue a career in law. Having the opportunity to engage with that system through appellate litigation on behalf of Mr. Campos-Chaves is a humbling privilege." For his turn, Sarveswaran, who came to the U.S. as a small child, echoed how gratifying the experience has been. He added, “I chose Minnesota Law specifically because I was looking for substantive clinical education and experience, but even I never expected to work directly with experienced appellate litigators on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that has the potential to give some clarity to hundreds of thousands of people at a time when the American immigration system is in a state of abject confusion.”
Now that their brief is complete, the students will help prepare the case team for oral argument, which is likely to take place early in 2024. The cases are Campos-Chaves v. Garland (No. 22-674), Garland v. Singh (No. 22-884), and Garland v. Mendez-Colin (No. 22-884). More information can be found on the cases’ page in SCOTUSBlog, as well as Minnesota Lawyer's coverage.