Immigration Clinic Achieves Justice for Detainee Abused on Basis of Sexual Orientation

Students in Miami Law's Immigration Clinic successfully resolved a federal damages lawsuit for a man who was assaulted by a guard at a local immigration detention center.
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Immigration authorities jailed the clinic's client for a year and a half while he was pursuing protection from deportation to a country in which he would be tortured on the basis of his sexual orientation. He ultimately won his case before an immigration judge, but while his case was pending, a detention guard began to harass him and use homophobic slurs. The mistreatment culminated in a brutal attack outside of camera surveillance. The client suffered injuries to his head and legs and had to be hospitalized for three days.

Students filed a complaint seeking damages in U.S. district court and handled every aspect of the complex lawsuit while it was pending for over two years. Joshua Truppman, 3L, was a student on the case this past spring. "Working on this case was an immensely rewarding and challenging experience. I am thrilled that I had the unique opportunity to work on complex issues while helping our client recover from a traumatic experience," he said.

Over the past three years, numerous students, some now alumni, have worked on the case, including Theresa Breslin, J.D.'12, Kevin Cobb, J.D.'13, W. Aaron Daniel, J.D.'12, Abraham Benhayoun, J.D.'12, Natalie Garrett, J.D.'13, Vicky Halloun, J.D.'13, Michael Larmoyeux, J.D.'13, Michael Maugans, J.D.'13, Summer Niemeier, J.D.'13, Katlyn Orobello, J.D.'13, Emily Padron, 3L, Autumn Page, J.D.'12, Jillianne Pierce, J.D. '12, Misato Sawada, 3L, Kathleen Schulman, J.D.'13, Ian Shaw, 3L, and Victor Velarde, J.D.'13.

"The case was an incredibly rich experience for everyone on our litigation team. It challenged us on every learning vector," said Professor Rebecca Sharpless, Director of the Immigration Clinic. Farrin Anello, who worked on the case as Supervising Attorney in the clinic, also expressed praise for the students' hard work on the case and observed that "[t]he fact that a detention officer was permitted to harass and attack our client on the basis of his sexual orientation—while our client was seeking protection from such violence abroad—illustrates the need for greater oversight and accountability in the immigration detention system."

The clinic worked on the case with co-counsel Cassandra Capobianco and Peter Sleasman of the Florida Institutional Legal Services Project of Florida Legal Services, which is based in Gainesville, Florida. "Working with the Clinic on this important case was a pleasure," commented attorney Capobianco. "The students and faculty were dedicated professional advocates for our vulnerable client, who was brutally abused at Krome while he was seeking protection from abuse in his home country. The positive resolution of the litigation is a credit to the Clinic's tenacity and commitment to achieving a just result for our client."

In the Immigration Clinic, students represent indigent clients in court and work on collaborative projects aimed at advancing the rights and dignity of immigrants. Students interested in applying for a Miami Law clinic should visit the Immigration Clinic website.