Immigration Archives - College of Law

Immigration

International student calls upon experience as an immigrant in her legal studies

Aisosa Arhunmwunde is a third-year law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law who is working towards a career in immigration law. Originally born in Nigeria, Arhunmwunde immigrated with her family to Canada where she earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Manitoba.

After college, she decided to continue her education in law school. “I realized early that laws are dormant until a person is there to enforce and interpret them for people,” said Arhunmwunde. “It was then that I realized I wanted to be the voice of those who needed help with their legal rights.”

“TU Law allowed me to start school in the spring semester.”

Originally, Arhunmwunde looked at TU Law because she wanted to begin law school in the spring semester and TU offers spring, summer and fall starts. After she compared schools, she realized that TU’s robust experiential learning program, excellent academics, diverse student body and the affordable cost of obtaining a legal education was right for her.

She worked with asylum-seekers in Ireland.

During law school, Arhunmwunde has focused her interests on immigration law by working at TU’s Immigrant Resource Network and Immigrant Rights Project. During the summer months, Arhunmwunde took her studies abroad through TU’s Study Abroad program and interned at the Irish Refugee Council in Dublin helping clients who were seeking asylum.

Elizabeth McCormick, JD, associate dean of Experiential Learning and director of the Clinical Education Program at TU Law said, “Aisosa brings the unique and valuable perspective of her own experience as an immigrant and international student to her work with immigrant clients. She has seized on every available opportunity to gain first-hand experience in immigration law and in representing real clients. The combination of her intellect, passion and empathy will be a great benefit to her and her clients in the future.

After completing her internship, Arhunmwunde traveled to Ghana which was funded by TU Law’s Public Interest Board. Based in Accra, she conducted interviews with citizens on the street who were displaced in order to help them find living spaces. She was one of a cadre of students from around the world there to conduct human rights work in the field.

“Law school is challenging but worth it if you choose the right one for you.”

“It is truly rewarding to have a client whose case you’ve work on call and tell you their asylum is approved and they no longer fear going to jail. It is so worth it,” said Arhunmwunde. “Law school is challenging like everything worthwhile, but it is easier and more enjoyable if you choose a law school that gives you the tools and sets you up for success before you put a foot out of the door.” During her time at TU Law, Arhunmwunde served as the associate editor of the Energy Law Journal, secretary of the Black American Law Students Association and was a member of the Women’s Law Caucus, Board of Advocates and the West African Students Association.

For more information on the TU College of Law, visit us online.

Law student discovers passion for immigration law at TU

As a young adult, Alec Bracken knew that he wanted a career helping those who couldn’t help themselves. He chose the study of law and moved his family to Tulsa from Utah to attend The University of Tulsa College of Law. In his first year, he discovered his passion for immigration law and has recently accepted a summer fellowship with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HRIC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“I am the type of person who likes to do everything I can to fix problems. When I watched a team of doctors help my hospitalized wife and daughter several years ago, I saw that they were doing things I couldn’t because of their advanced education. It was then that I realized I wanted to go back to school to learn how I could help others too, and that ultimately led me to the field of law,” said Bracken.

When it came time to research and select a law school, Bracken chose TU Law for its immigration law opportunities. “I quickly learned that the group of people most in need of help in this country were undocumented immigrants,” Bracken said. “When I learned that TU operated an immigration clinic where I could learn and help people at the same time, I knew it was the right place for me.”

“TU Law is a small school with big opportunities.”

Now in his second year of law school, Bracken has become a leader in immigration-related law organizations and activities. He has worked at the Immigrant Rights Project — a one-semester, six-credit clinical educational program and the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network — a legal incubator providing clients with direct representation in immigration proceedings. He also founded TU’s first immigration law society, immLAW.

immLAW, one of TU’s largest student organizations with 80 members, has given more than 200 hours of service to the local immigrant community including immigration education events for law students and area residents. This past year, four members of the organization traveled to an immigrant detention center in Texas where they prepared women and children asylum-seekers for interviews about their credible fear of torture or persecution if they were denied asylum. As immLAW has grown, so has the contingent traveling to Texas to help those seeking asylum. This year, 18 students and translators will travel to Karnes County Family Immigration Detention Center where those seeking asylum are detained until they can establish a credible fear to return to their home countries.

“TU Law is a small school with big opportunities,” said Bracken. “I have benefitted from mentor relations and have done so many things I couldn’t have done in a larger school. I debated transferring to another college to be closer to family but realized that being at TU brought me more opportunities, and I’m happy I’m here.”

Selected for Harvard Immigration Clinic Summer Fellowship

This summer Bracken will participate in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic’s summer fellowship program. Those selected take the lead in representing clients from all over the world who are seeking protection from being returned to human rights abuses in their country of origin, as well as those who are seeking protection from exile after years of living in the United States. Bracken will work at Harvard and Greater Boston Legal Services while concurrently taking a course in Immigration and Refugee Advocacy.

Hear Preston Brasch talk about externing at Harvard Immigration Clinic

Bracken credits his professors, Matt Lamkin and Mimi Marton for taking a keen interest in his career and helping him discover new opportunities. After graduation, Bracken will become a public interest attorney. “I want to work for an organization where the client’s ability to pay does not affect their access to legal services,” Bracken said.

TU Law accepts applications for spring, summer and fall starts. For more information or a free application fee waiver, visit us in person or online.

 

Stiles featured in magazine for work in immigration

This story was first seen in Tulsa People, November 2017, featuring Elissa Stiles, a 2L law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law.

Stiles serves on the TU Board of Advocates, the Immigration Law Society, Women’s Law Caucus and the Student Bar Association.

 

Welcoming refugees – Three Tulsans help others establish “home” in the U.S
By Bria Bolton Moore and Morgan Phillips

McCormick authors blog on homeland, immigrants and sanctuary

This post was first seen in The University of Tulsa Oklahoma Center for Humanities blog. Written by Betsy McCormick, Associate Clinical Professor and Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at the TU College of Law and OCH Fellow. In addition to teaching students in the Immigrant Rights Project Clinical Program, she also teaches Immigration Law and International Refugee and Asylum Law.

 

What do you think of when you hear the word homeland? If you are an immigrant or an immigrant advocate, you might think of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the federal department responsible for enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. Created in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, DHS combined the work of more than twenty different federal departments and agencies into a single department “whose primary mission is to protect our homeland.”[1] Not surprisingly, post-September 11th, a critical part of the new DHS’s protective mission was the control of immigration to and non-citizens within the United States. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created three new federal immigration agencies within DHS – Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). While national security concerns have long played a role in shaping U.S. immigration law and policy, after September 11, and increasingly since then, the debate around immigration and immigrants has been framed as an issue of national or homeland security first and foremost.   Indeed, in the context of this debate, immigration is very often viewed as a threat to national security and the relationship between immigrants and the idea of homeland has become more fraught than ever.

Most dictionaries define homeland as “native land” or the country where a person is born.[2] Consequently, to the extent that homeland refers to the place from which a person originates, their native place, then immigrants will always be outsiders and can never be “at home” in their new countries. On the other hand, if homeland is instead seen as a place where one has a sense of belonging, comfort and security, then the possibility that an immigrant could make a new home exists, though is far from certain, especially in our current political climate.

Immigrants to the United States abandon their homelands for a variety of reasons, including flight from persecution and other life-threatening conditions, the pull of family ties, and aspirations for better opportunities for themselves and their families. But for many immigrants, especially those who enter or remain in the United States without legal authorization, the dream of establishing a home in the United States remains elusive. This is true because of a legal regime that creates significant, if not insurmountable, barriers to immigration. There are very limited avenues for legal migration to the United States and these are narrowed further by quotas and substantial backlogs that can delay entry to the United States by years or even decades. Those without legal immigration status live in the shadows, the antithesis of the protection and belonging represented by homeland.

In addition to an outmoded and overstressed legal regime, immigrants are often unable to feel at home in the United States because of hostility and other barriers they encounter in the communities in which they settle. Undocumented immigrants are unable to work legally so are vulnerable to exploitation. They may be afraid of interaction with law enforcement so don’t come forward when they are victims of crimes and, as a result, are frequently targeted by criminals. Language barriers leave them isolated and without access to critical information about health care or education services for their families.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, efforts by his administration to enlist the cooperation of state and local law enforcement in immigrant policing have further undermined the sense of security and safety in immigrant communities. Many local governments and law enforcement agencies are refusing to cooperate, arguing that doing so creates mistrust in the immigrant community and has a negative impact on public safety and overall well-being.

In response to such resistance, the Trump administration has pursued an aggressive “anti-sanctuary” agenda seeking to punish state and local governments and agencies for implementing policies that are welcoming to or inclusive of immigrants, or resisting involvement in immigration enforcement. Federal courts have so far blocked the administration’s attempts to deny federal funding to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.[3] However, during four days in late September, ICE carried out raids in ten locations around the country identified as sanctuary jurisdictions, including Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Denver and Portland, Oregon. [4] Operation Safe City led to a total of 498 arrests and was designed to send a clear message to these jurisdictions that their refusal to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts will have consequences.

The battle between the Trump administration and the sanctuary cities and states offering protection and welcome to their undocumented immigrant residents is a struggle over who gets to make a home in our communities and, ultimately, who gets to be a part of the American homeland. It is a struggle that will not be resolved without thoughtful, meaningful reforms that focus limited enforcement resources on serious threats to public safety and national security, while providing some solution for those millions of unauthorized immigrants living in and contributing to our communities who pose no threat.

[1] PROPOSAL TO CREATE THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, JUNE 2002, HTTPS://WWW.DHS.GOV/PUBLICATION/PROPOSAL-CREATE-DEPARTMENT-HOMELAND-SECURITY.
[2] SEE MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM; DICTIONARY.COM; AND EN.OXFORDDICTIONARIES.COM.
[3] JASON MEISNER AND JOHN BYRNE, JUDGE RULES IN CITY’S FAVOR ON SANCTUARY CITIES, GRANTS NATIONWIDE INJUNCTION, CHICAGO TRIBUNE (SEPT. 15, 2017), HTTP://WWW.CHICAGOTRIBUNE.COM/NEWS/LOCAL/BREAKING/CT-CHICAGO-SANCTUARY-CITIES-LAWSUIT-MET-20170915-STORY.HTML; ALAN NEUHAUSER, FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER ON SANCTUARY CITIES, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT (APRIL 25, 2017), HTTPS://WWW.USNEWS.COM/NEWS/NATIONAL-NEWS/ARTICLES/2017-04-25/FEDERAL-JUDGE-BLOCKS-TRUMP-ORDER-CUTTING-FUNDING-TO-SANCTUARY-CITIES
[4] MIRIAM JORDAN, IMMIGRATION AGENTS ARREST HUNDREDS IN SWEEP OF SANCTUARY CITIES, NEW YORK TIMES (SEPT. 28, 2017), HTTPS://WWW.NYTIMES.COM/2017/09/28/US/ICE-ARRESTS-SANCTUARY-CITIES.HTML?_R=0.