On March 28, 2022, 3Ls and Immigration Law Clinic clinicians Emma Graham and Jeronimo Simonovis Armas represented a client before the Chicago Immigration Court in her claim for asylum. The case began in March 2020 when George Cortina ’20 and Brittany Wiegand ’20 initially submitted the asylum application with supplemental brief and evidence.
Due to COVID, the trial was rescheduled for October 4, 2021, so Graham and Simonovis Armas prepared an updated brief, application, and supporting evidence, as well as spent hours preparing the client (special thanks to Analy Ayala Blanco and Boris Mercado for assisting with witness preparation). They learned two weeks prior to the trial that it would be conducted via video conference. The clinicians scrambled to submit a motion for an in-person hearing, which was denied, and immediately submitted another motion for in-person hearing, a motion for a continuance, and a request for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
The first motion and PD request were denied, but the continuance was granted and the trial was reset for November 2, 2021. Unfortunately, the judge on the case had a medical emergency and the November 2nd hearing was postponed until August 2022. The clinicians filed a motion to advance so that the hearing could take place while they were still in law school, which was granted, but the court misunderstood and scheduled the hearing for November 2023!
Going out on a limb, the clinicians filed a motion for reassignment to a new judge. Much to their great surprise it was granted and set for March 28, 2022. In court, the clinicians had to respond quickly by counseling their client on the judge’s offer of an exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the form of administrative closure, and ultimately moved forward with a trial on the merits of the asylum claim. After hours of testimony, the immigration judge ruled in the client’s favor, granting asylum to her and her eight-year-old son.
Professor Lauren Aronson, director of the clinic, said, "The clients were fleeing gender-based and gang-based violence in Central America, a type of persecution and an region which render applicants at a notorious disadvantage in the asylum context. The work Graham and Simonovis Armas did on this case was a pure and extreme example of zealous advocacy."