Three St. Thomas Law students have won the Board of Immigration appeal they filed on behalf an individual from Brazil. Meghan Byrnes, Aaron McCrossan and Maghan Singleton, student lawyers in St. Thomas’ Immigration Appellate Clinic, wrote the appeal for Geovane Jacob, who sought protection in the United States after suffering political persecution in his home country.

Byrnes, McCrossan and Singleton, under the supervision of adjunct professor Elizabeth Holmes, began working on Jacob’s case in October 2019 when his “withholding of removal” order granted by the Executive Office of Immigration was appealed by the government to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“The student attorneys worked under a compressed briefing schedule to develop arguments on appeal defending the lower court’s decision,” said Holmes.

On Jan. 15, 2020, the students’ hard work paid off. The appellate court dismissed the government’s appeal and upheld the Executive Office of Immigration’s ruling to allow Jacob to remain in the U.S.

“We were relieved and thrilled the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the government’s appeal and affirmed Geovane’s granting of Withholding,” McCrossan said. “Throughout our time with Geovane, he always maintained hope and kept a positive outlook. It’s been a sincere honor to have played a small part in his story.”

The ruling was especially meaningful because, while the law students prepared Jacob’s appeal and counseled him through the process, Jacob represented himself before the appellate judge.

“We were so impressed with Geovane for representing himself in court,” Byrnes said. “As even experienced immigration attorneys would say, it is not an easy battle to win a case in immigration court.”

Following the victory, Byrnes, McCrossan and Singleton continued to work on Jacob’s case because he was still being detained in the Sherburne County jail. Nearly a month after the appeal was dismissed, Jacob was finally released from immigration custody on Feb. 11.

McCrossan, Singleton and Holmes were at the jail for Jacob’s release.

“It was a great feeling to see him leave detention,” Singleton said. “There was so much happiness, joy and relief. We truly believed Mr. Jacob had a great claim to asylum and that he deserves this new start in life.”

Geovane Jacob is now living in Massachusetts near his young son.

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