Samuel Weiss, J.D. ’14 tells us about his time with the Crimmigration Clinic and mentor Phil Torrey, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law.
While the idea of focusing immigration enforcement on folks with criminal convictions has intuitive appeal, in the Crimmigration Clinic we got to see how often good people faced devastating consequences for small crimes. The statuses most relevant to crimmigration are extremely punitive, especially to people with drug convictions, and often suck discretion out of the system so that immigration judges are left to rubber stamp removal orders. The poor drafting of these statuses makes them confusing but also means that there is room for advocates to be creative in trying to win relief for their clients. The fact that immigrants facing deportation have no right to counsel creates a huge opportunity for students to help people navigate an incredibly complex and punitive system. As an experienced practitioner in exactly these types of cases, Phil Torrey, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, was able to closely mentor us as we tried to help clients find some avenue for relief.
Through the Capital Punishment Clinic placement at the Southern Center for Human Rights, I was able to work on cases under the supervision of some of the best capital defense lawyers in the country. I was also given any intern’s dream, which is the ability to duck into the office of someone like Carol Steiker and bounce ideas off of her as I performed my work. Both experiences encouraged me to continue on the path of advocating for people caught up in the criminal justice system. I am also certain that both helped convince the ACLU and the Ford Foundation that I had the desire and the skill set to contribute to the complex impact litigation that is the National Prison Project’s specialty.