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Tulsa Immigrants

TU Law students support immigrants seeking asylum in Texas

A team of 16 TU law and psychology students traveled to Karnes City, Texas, this summer to help provide legal support to women and children seeking asylum in the United States.

The Karnes City family detention center, which detains women and children seeking asylum in the U.S., can best be described as chaotic. A coordinated effort between GEO, the private prison company that owns the detention center, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the detention center at Karnes City is a stressful first step to seeking asylum.

The team from The University of Tulsa — clinical law Professor Mimi Marton; psychology Professor Elana Newman; psychology doctoral student Chelsea Shotwell Tabke; the legal fellow for the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network, Robin Sherman; 16 law students; and three law students that were originally assigned as interpreters — went on the service-learning trip to provide legal assistance to the women detained there.

The Credible Fear Interview

In Karnes, the students prepared the female detainees for their Credible Fear Interview (CFI). A CFI is a first-screening to determine whether a detainee will be able to present a viable asylum case in U.S. immigration court. To pass the screening, a woman must prove that she has a credible fear of being sent back to her country. If she doesn’t pass the screening, she can have a CFI review by an immigration judge, but if she still doesn’t pass, then she is likely to be deported.

The CFI requires one to relive horrendous encounters. Clients hailed from all over the world but mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The students learned that one of the biggest factors driving these families out of their countries was incredible gang violence. “These are countries in which, as one woman from El Salvador told us, ‘The gangs control my country,’ and that is really true from the top government position down to the local police force,” said Marton. The other common problem they saw was women fleeing domestic violence, where they reported that there was no mechanism in their country through which they could seek protection from their abuser.

In addition to preparing clients for the CFI, the TU team also conducted intake interviews with women who had just arrived in Karnes, prepared advocacy briefs, searched for sponsors to whom the families could be released, and led informational sessions on the next steps after release from the detention center. By the end of their five days, they had served more than 200 detainees.

Dealing with the trauma

Interviewing traumatized clients can be hard and emotional work, which is why TU’s Psychology Department was included. Newman and Tabke were responsible for providing psychological support for both the clients and the TU team. Some of their everyday tasks included assisting the law students in conducting trauma-informed interviews, providing crisis intervention for distressed clients and helping mitigate the legal team’s vicarious traumatization. “Most lawyers are trained to work with clients who are more advantaged, and not who are in captivity,” said Newman on training the law students for the interviews.

Stephen Yoder, one of the law students who went on the trip, said the most challenging part of being in Karnes City was hearing the stories. “These women and children had faced a lot of abuse or a lot of legitimate fear in their home countries,” he said. “It really took a toll on us as a group.”

Marton points out that these experiences are necessary to teach the students the importance of pro bono legal work. “Oftentimes the idea of giving back gets lost in the busy day of a lawyer,” said Marton. “This project highlighted two issues: one, some of the massive injustices that we see in immigration law today; and two, the important role that lawyers can play in resolving those injustices.”

The importance of Karnes City experience

Trips like the one to Karnes City are invaluable to students.

“Something that I think maybe I didn’t do enough while I was in law school was actually getting real-life client interviewing experience,” Sherman said. Interviewing clients like the ones in the Karnes City family detention center gives students the perspective that these people are more than just legal cases. “If you don’t work with the non-legal issues that your client presents, you won’t be successful at the legal representation. It really is opening their eyes beyond the silo of being a lawyer and how important it is to gain other skills,” said Marton.

Law student Jose Gonzalez found something more than just legal experience. “I learned compassion and empathy. I learned that everyone is a real person and that they have real emotions, that they went through very, very hard things in their lives and they’re just trying to find some help,” he said.

TU will be returning to Karnes City Detention Center in the future under the program with RAICES. To learn more about TU Law’s Immigrant Rights Project, click here.

 

 

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.

King and Yeakley join McAfee & Taft

TU Law alumni and 2017 honors graduates Andrew M. King and Stanton Yeakley have joined Oklahoma’s largest law firm, McAfee & Taft.

Andrew King is a transactional lawyer whose practice encompasses a broad range of business and commercial matters, including business entity formation and organization, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, real estate transactions, contract negotiations, business taxation and family wealth planning.

King graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he  worked for the Immigrant Rights Project at the Boesche Legal Clinic, was a member of the Board of Advocates and received the CALI Award for Advanced Legal Research.

Prior to embarking on his legal career, Andrew served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for six years and led a mortar fire team in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Stanton Yeakley is a trial lawyer whose civil litigation practice involves the resolution of a broad range of complex commercial and business disputes in both state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings.

Yeakley graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he served as an editor on the Tulsa Law Review, was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity and the Phi Delta Phi legal honor fraternity and earned three CALI Awards. At graduation, he was named to the Order of the Curule Chair.

 

 

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

TU Law’s Hope Forsyth selected as 2017 OBA Outstanding Law Student

Hope Forsyth, a 3L at The University of Tulsa College of Law, has been selected as the college’s Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) Outstanding Student in 2017. Annually, each law school in the state selects a graduating student to receive the award at the OBA meeting in November.

2017 OBA Outstanding Student, Hope Forsyth

“I’m honored and excited to be selected as TU’s representative for this great honor,” said Forsyth. “I greatly appreciate the stellar education, mentorship and opportunities I have received throughout both my law and undergraduate education at TU.”

Forsyth is the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, a student member of the Council Oak/Johnson-Sontag Inn of Court and a member of Phi Delta Phi. She has earned eight CALI Excellence for the Future Awards for the highest grade in various classes, and the George and Jean Price Award for legal reasoning, research and writing.

During her time at TU, Forsyth has gained experience at multiple levels of the federal court system through internships for Chief Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, former Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson and Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary, all of the Northern District of Oklahoma. In the spring of 2018, Forsyth will extern for Tenth Circuit Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour.

Forsyth’s law review comment, “Mutually Assured Protection: Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian Influence on American Copyright Law,” will be published in the Tulsa Law Review Spring 2018 issue. Prior to law school, her examination of the historical and current use of the word “forum” was published in Princeton University Press’ Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture.

Forsyth grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma, where her father practices law. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communication and media studies with minors in English and philosophy from The University of Tulsa, where she was a research fellow for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, Honors Scholar, Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar. Outside of law school, Hope is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist at her Catholic parish.

After graduation, Hope will be an associate attorney at GableGotwals in Tulsa.

Law dean authors featured editorial about educators

This editorial was first seen in the Tulsa World on October 15, 2017 written by Lyn Entzeroth, dean and Dean John Rogers Endowed Chair at The University of Tulsa College of Law. She is a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board.

Miss Clara Fieselmann changed my life. She taught high school English and in tenth grade, and she opened up the magical world of language and writing to me.

As my teacher, she did far more than simply correct my spelling and grammar. She gave me in-depth feedback on everything I wrote. She showed me how to write more powerfully; she proved to me that my seemingly endless rewrites improved my work product, and she revealed to me how much fun the hard work of writing can be. I still rely upon the skills and insights she shared with me all those years ago.

Research shows student success depends on teachers like Miss Fieselmann. As Amanda Ripley noted in her article “What Makes a Great Teacher” (The Atlantic Jan./Feb. 2010), the teacher standing in front of the class makes a huge difference in student success. Recent studies make evident that effective teachers share some commonalities. They set high standards. They plan relentlessly. They focus on student learning. They don’t give up on themselves or their students. These teachers work long, hard hours for their profession and their students.

In looking back, I can see the ways in which Miss Fieselmann worked hard for her students. First, she set high expectations, and she pushed me to meet those expectations. I am sure I fell short of her expectations plenty of times, but she kept pushing and she continued to have faith in me. Second, she welcomed each class organized, prepared, and ready to challenge us. She held individual meetings with students working one-on-one to help us meet the goals she had set for each one of us. Third, she prepared multiple lesson plans for class. If students did not respond to her first plan, she had plenty of backup plans to keep them charged, engaged, and learning. Fourth, she did not simply care about the rules of grammar; she cared about the art and craft of writing. Fifth, she cared about the success of every single one of her students — every single one.

I talk with folks all the time who recall teachers who changed their lives. Teachers who challenged them. Teachers who engaged them. Teachers who would not let them slack off. Teachers who pushed them beyond their own expectations. Teachers who opened up a new area of interest. Teachers who changed their futures.

Great teachers are everywhere, and many of them teach in Oklahoma classrooms. Teachers who work late; teachers who meet with students outside of class time to help them understand the material; teachers who care about every student; teachers who plan and rework lessons to make sure that students learn; teachers who inspire; teachers who change the lives of their students for the better. Yet the budget failures in Oklahoma raise serious concerns about our schools’ ability to assure the continuation of such effective learning opportunities for our students.

Oklahomans are all too familiar with the damage the budget shortfall inflicts on our schools and children. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma decreased K-12 funding by 23.6 percent between 2008 and 2015. According to the National Education Association and the Oklahoma Education Coalition, the average teacher pay in Oklahoma falls below the regional average and is less than the average teacher pay in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and New Mexico. Local and national news outlets report on talented Oklahoma teachers leaving Oklahoma to teach in surrounding states. Budget shortfalls force the elimination of hundreds of teacher positions across the state. School districts lack qualified teachers to fill all the remaining positions they have. Emergency-qualified teachers are at or exceed record levels for the state.

Miss Fieselmann proved to me many years ago that a teacher can make all the difference in the world to a kid. As an adult, I also know that to fill this important role in a kid’s life, a teacher needs adequate funding and resources. It is time for Oklahoma to put kids first and recommit to adequately funding schools to assure the best and most promising teachers and outcomes for our children’s futures.

 

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.

TU Law professors and students respond to DACA termination

Since President Donald Trump announced last month that his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA recipients, often called “dreamers,” their families and many others in our community are taking action and searching for solutions. The DACA program was created in 2012 by the Obama administration as limited protection for young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization. DACA was put in place to protect hundreds of thousands of young people who have lived and gone to school in the United States, contributed to and been outstanding members of our communities, until Congress could achieve a more permanent solution.

Listen Frontier: Will a DACA deal get done? We hear from a legal expert and a DACA recipient

DACA grants no immigration status to the dreamers, nor is it “amnesty” or a path to citizenship. Rather, DACA recipients are granted authorization to work and to continue their education in two-year increments. On September 5, the Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program. On that date, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting new DACA applications. Those DACA recipients whose status expires between September 5, 2017 and March 8, 2018, were given until October 5, 2017 to apply for a two-year renewal of their DACA status. All other DACA recipients will lose that status and their employment authorization when their current status expires.

Currently, there are 886,814 DACA recipients in the U.S. with 7,488 in Tulsa. More than 90 percent of the Oklahoma DACA-eligible populace are at least 16 years old and are employed, earning nearly $146.3 million annually and contributing more than $20.3 million in taxes according to the Tulsa World.

Read about the Tulsa Community’s reaction to the DACA rescission, including an interview with Professor Elizabeth McCormick here.

“Oklahomans enrolled in DACA have few, if any, options to become documented,” said TU Law Associate Clinical Professor Elizabeth McCormick, who teaches in the Immigrant Rights Project clinical program and has expertise in immigration, refugee and asylum law. “There is nothing that the current administration is doing to create new options for them. I recommend that DACA enrollees should consult with an experienced immigration attorney about options. There aren’t a lot of options and that’s why most of these kids applied for DACA in the first place.”

Congress has been attempting to pass the Dream Act for 17 years, but currently there is no legislative pathway that creates an opportunity for these children, now adults, to remain the U.S. In fact, it’s been at least 50 years since laws regarding the avenues for legal immigration were updated. If we don’t change the laws in a way that creates avenues for legal immigration to the U.S., it will never fix the problem entirely,” said McCormick.

According to TU Law’s Mimi Marton, director of the TU Law Co-op and the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network, there are additional complications for “dreamers” in Tulsa. “Due to agreements between Tulsa County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), each person booked into the David. L. Moss Criminal Justice Center is checked by ICE for immigration status. Those who are without status, are put into immigration proceedings often leading to the deportation of long-time residents with no criminal history who have, for example, unpaid traffic violations.” Marton pointed out that the City of Tulsa has approved a plan to create a separate city jail so that those who have only city violations will not be booked at David L. Moss. City official says that the new jail will mitigate a lot of fear among undocumented residents in Tulsa County and will provide a mechanism for those residents to pay parking fines without fear of deportation.

See an interview with TU Law’s Mimi Marton regarding the proposed city jail here.

TU President Gerard P. Clancy has joined with hundreds of other university leaders to encourage elected officials to uphold DACA. TU is a richly diverse campus willing to accept and empower students regardless of immigration status and implores policy makers to maintain and open dialogue and help young “dreamers” pave a path to citizenship.

Several organizations in the Tulsa area have held information sessions regarding DACA including the YWCA, which has offered 500 free legal consultations to DACA enrollees. TU Law students recently helped staff a DACA renewal clinic in collaboration with Dream Act Oklahoma and several local attorneys to provide free legal assistance to the dreamers eligible to renew their DACA one last time.