SEATTLE--Among the Immigration Law Clinic's victories this school year, Ben Harris ’12 and MariRuth Petzing ’13 successfully defended 30-year-old Khuong Ta against deportation. Ta faced deportation to Vietnam after his family fled from the country when he was an infant.
Before entering the U.S. at age 4, Ta spent several years in a refugee camp in Thailand. Deportation proceedings began after a 6-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance surfaced.
“Because of the number of years Mr. Ta has resided in the U.S. and the nature of his conviction, he was eligible to ask the Immigration Judge for a discretionary waiver of his deportation,” Law Lecturer Signe Dortch said. “After a 3-hour-long hearing, at which Mr. Ta was represented by Ben and MariRuth, the Immigration Judge granted him the waiver.” At the time of his hearing, Ta had been in an Immigration detention facility for almost 5 months.
Petzing said, “It feels wonderful to see someone set free and a weight taken off of them and their family,” but she gives credit for Ta’s release to the persistence of him and his family. Petzing helped by requesting records, interviewing Ta’s family members to write declarations and working with Ta to write his declaration and prepare him to testify at his court hearing. She and her clinic partner also drafted a memo of law for the Immigration Judge that explained the facts of their case, including conditions in Vietnam, and the applicable law.
“The compelling elements of the case were not of my creation but rather were the result of the challenges and successes my client and his family had faced in their lives,” Petzing said. “I served mostly as a translator, taking in the information and repackaging it for the Judge.”
Dortch said she spoke to Ta by phone the day after he was released from detention.
“He told me that he wanted to tell everyone about the good work of the UW law students,” she said. “He said, ‘Ben and MariRuth are my heroes’”.
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