Preparation and persuasion paid off for two University of Virginia School of Law students who recently convinced a judge to release on bond a client facing deportation.

Third-year students Jonathan Babcock and Keyawna Griffith, working through UVA Law’s Immigration Law Clinic, represented an undocumented immigrant at Arlington Immigration Court on March 13. Immigration courts are overseen by the Executive Office for Immigration Review within the U.S. Department of Justice. These judges may grant foreign nationals legal status or have immigrants deported or removed.

Their client had been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being charged with driving with a suspended license in Culpeper County. Babcock and Griffith helped file a bond motion and then tag-teamed a hearing for his release.

The students interviewed their client ahead of the courtroom appearance to learn about his background and build a real-life narrative to present to a judge. The man had legally entered the U.S. on an employment visa, has lived in the Culpeper area for 15 years, has a young daughter (who is a citizen) and stepson, and has worked at the same company for over 10 years.

“Since being in the U.S., he has dedicated himself to his work and to his family,” Griffith said.

Declarations attesting to the client’s livelihood and character by people who know him are often a pivotal factor in immigration cases as well, she said. Apart from the client’s family obligations, Babcock added that it’s easier for defendants to prepare their cases if they remain freed before trial.

“He had great coworkers who were willing to do anything they could to support him,” Babcock said. “One of them actually came up to Arlington with us. That he was willing to take off work and drive a couple of hours up to the court, shows that he respects that person’s character.”

The students successfully argued that their client was neither a danger to public safety nor a flight risk. The judge released him on $6,000 bond, which Griffith said was higher than they had sought, but fair.

“It was just very impactful to go before the judge and prove that this is a good person who deserves to be outside jail so he can continue to support his family,” Griffith said.

The students felt they were also successful in securing a bond amount based on the circumstances and similar cases.

“Our client had several moving violations that on their own wouldn’t have been an issue at all but collectively presented a challenge for us to try and argue that they didn’t make him a danger to the community,” Babcock said. “Some people who were in front of the judge that day only had one or two violations against them, and they got a bond that was very similar to ours.”

After graduation, Babcock will work at Wiley Rein in Washington, D.C.

Griffith will work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in D.C., and clerk for Judge Leslie Abrams of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Deena Sharuk, an immigration attorney and clinic supervisor at the Legal Aid Justice Center who teaches immigration law, said the arrest follows a pattern of sweeping ICE dragnets that target more individuals than in the past.

“Keyawna and Jonathan's tireless efforts to secure the liberty of their client is a testament to their skills as future attorneys and the ethos of the students in the Immigration Law Clinic,” Sharuk said.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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