On January 5, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded to the immigration authorities the case of a Nicaraguan asylum seeker who was represented by 3L students Jenna Morton '12 and Zachary Young '12 of the UC Hastings Appellate Project. Hector Silva Vega fled Nicaragua after being forced into the Sandinista army and bearing witness to the army's patterns of human rights violations. The U.S. immigration authorities previously denied asylum to Silva Vega.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals appointed the Hastings Appellate Project to represent Silva Vega in his petition for review of that decision. Morton and Young argued in their opening Ninth Circuit brief that U.S. immigration law allows for asylum when refugees from oppressive regimes are forced to serve and to act against their will. Instead of filing an answering brief to oppose the students' arguments, the government attorneys filed a motion to remand Silva Vega's case back to the immigration authorities to reevaluate his asylum claim. The Ninth Circuit granted that motion.
"This is the first victory for the UC Hastings Appellate Project this year," commented Gary A. Watt, Director of the UC Hastings Appellate Project and appellate attorney at Archer Norris. "We are hopeful that the immigration officials on remand will do the right thing and grant asylum to Mr. Silva Vega, who risked his life to flee the Nicaraguan army's oppression of its people."
In just three years of existence at UC Hastings College of the Law, the Hastings Appellate Project has been victorious in five out of six appellate cases, including a favorable published immigration law opinion and four other reversals. The UC Hastings Appellate Project allows talented 3L students to represent low-income pro bono clients in a variety of contexts, including immigration, foreclosure defense, employment discrimination and civil rights. This representation is made possible by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Pro Bono Program.