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News Posted on January 5, 2010

Law School Clinics Free Client from Immigration Detention


A collaborative effort by the UC Davis School of Law Immigration Clinic and Civil Rights Clinic won the December 23 release of Herbert Flores-Torres, who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for nearly three years, allowing the client to enjoy a holiday reunion with family. 

Many members of the King Hall community contributed to the victory, including Professor Holly Cooper, supervising attorney with the Immigration Law Clinic, and Professor Carter White, supervising attorney with the Civil Rights Clinic, who acted as the lead attorneys in the case.  Also assisting in the effort were current and former students Asha Jennings '09, Hua Hoang '08, Jessica Zweng '09, Carolyn Hsu '09, Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi '10,  Su Yon Yi '10, Layla Razavi '11, and Rachel Prandini '10, as well as Shanti Martin, a Distinguished Fellow with the Immigration Law Clinic.  (Pictured: Yi, Flores-Torres, and Martin)

Flores-Torres, who was born in El Salvador, had been detained since October 2006 when the government charged him with being removable as an alien with a felony conviction.  Flores-Torres, who obtained permanent legal resident status in 1993, claimed that he was not deportable because he had derived citizenship from his mother when she became naturalized in 1995 - a claim that ultimately depended upon whether his father's paternity had been established by legitimation under Salvadoran law.  The case went through the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which transferred it to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where Judge William Alsup ruled that Flores-Torres' citizenship claim was valid.

"In this case, it was actually better for him if he were determined to be illegitimate, which would mean he could derive citizenship from his mother's naturalization," said Professor Cooper.  "Because he had lived in both California and El Salvador, deciding his legitimacy became very complicated."

Also lending their expertise to the case were Professors Courtney Joslin and Carol Bruch, as well as Dean Kevin R. Johnson, who helped frame arguments regarding legitimacy, conflict of laws, and habeas corpus.  The students involved worked extremely hard, Cooper said, and managed to bring in Columbia Law School Professor Alejandro Garro as well as a Salvadoran attorney to testify regarding issues of legitimacy.

"The students were outstanding, and they did literally everything a federal trial entails, from preparing witnesses to closing arguments," said Cooper.  "This was especially impressive because the case involved dealing with another country's law as well as U.S. law."