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News Posted on February 3, 2017

Immigration Clinic Aids Detained Travelers at San Francisco Airport, Draws Media Coverage

UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic students, alumni, and faculty drew extensive media coverage for their work on behalf of immigrants and travelers detained under President Trump’s executive order restricting entry into the United States by individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations. More than 20 King Hall faculty and alumni travelled to the San Francisco airport following the announcement of the order, while others worked at the Immigration Clinic. Media outlets including Sacramento television stations KCRA-3, CBS-13, and ABC-10, as well as the Sacramento Bee, Dateline UC Davis, and the Daily Journal reported on their activities.

“I really think this is a moment in our history that is testing our democracy,” Holly S. Cooper ’98, Co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic, told Dateline UC Davis. “We need to pause everything that’s going on, and we need to put all our effort into challenging this. If this is allowed to stand, we can’t call this country a democracy with checks and balances.”

Immigration Clinic students, faculty, and alumni learned of the executive order Friday, and by that evening were already fielding calls for help. The King Hall team worked through the weekend, helping to identify people under threat of deportation, preparing emergency motions, and assisting in negotiations with customs officials.

Sarah Ehsani-NiaSara Ehsani-Nia ’18, an Iranian-American daughter of immigrants, went to SFO to work with alumna Elica Vafaie ’11 of the Asian Law Caucus. She was able to act as a translator for an elderly Iranian couple who had come to the United States to visit family but found themselves detained over the weekend.  When Ehsani-Nia helped to gain their release, the couple was overjoyed.

“They were trembling with happiness and didn’t think this would be a realistic outcome given the three-day detention,” Ehsani-Nia told CBS-13. “I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities this country provides, and one of those is the duty to speak up and act when there’s injustice.”

Speaking with the Daily Journal, Dean Kevin R. Johnson said it was difficult to predict what the future may hold with regard to immigration policy, but UC Davis School of Law would continue to be involved.  "You're not sure what you're going to run into," Johnson said. "We are starting to look into working with law firms to see if they might take on some of these cases pro bono."

The Immigration Law Clinic has been inundated with questions about how people can volunteer, Cooper said. In response, the Clinic will host a training session for interested lawyers in the coming days, and is accepting donations. Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Cooper by email or phone, 530-754-4833.