_SOCIETY Law

_Flawed System

Drexel’s Richard Frankel says a description of his research is hard to pin down. But his objective is crystal clear: to protect individuals—in particular, low-income individuals—whose rights have been violated at the hands of a large institution, corporation or government agency.

_Richard Frankel

Frankel is the director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic and an associate professor of law in the Earle Mack School of Law.

Drexel’s Richard Frankel says a description of his research is hard to pin down. But his objective is crystal clear: to protect individuals—in particular, low-income individuals—whose rights have been violated at the hands of a large institution, corporation or government agency. It’s a scenario that often surfaces in the context of immigration policy and law, a topic Frankel explores in a paper recently published in Southern Methodist University Law Review.

In “Illegal Emigration: The Continuing Life of Invalid Deportation Orders,” Frankel outlines a flaw in the justice system when it comes to immigrants and deportation law. He explains the difficulties faced by immigrants deported by the government who have succeeded in overturning their deportation order in another country, after the government has removed them from the U.S. The reversal of a deportation order ordinarily restores non-citizens to their prior status of being lawfully present in the U.S.

But federal immigration authorities have used the fact of the non-citizen’s now-invalidated deportation to subject them to different and “harsh” standards that effectively prevent them from returning. Under this practice, Frankel writes, non-citizens who seek to return after winning from abroad are treated as “arriving aliens,” meaning that because they are now outside the U.S., the government can keep them out, even if they never should have been removed in the first place.

Deportation, Frankel writes, is one of the most severe punishments that the government can inflict upon non-citizens.

“The impact of being deported outside of the U.S. is so significant on the person and their whole family. They may have small children or family members relying on them to earn money.”

The inability of wrongly deported immigrants to return is a significant and growing concern.

“The impact of being deported outside of the U.S. is so significant on the person and their whole family,” Frankel says. “They may have small children or family members relying on them to earn money. It’s just so disruptive. In many cases, it can be permanent; some might have to wait 10 to 20 years before they can reapply to enter the country.”

Frankel notes that his paper was an important one, because the issue was not getting a lot of publicity and was flying “under the radar.” Fortunately, he adds, the government has already initiated some changes and has recognized some of the inadequacies in the system.

“Their changes may not address all of the problems, but at least it is a good start. It’s illegal to treat people this way and it’s not in conformity with immigration laws or the Constitution,” he says.

Frankel hopes his paper is helpful to other immigration attorneys, “to help bring them together if they face this issue. That way, they have another argument in their arsenal.”

Frankel adds that so many immigrants need representation but often cannot afford an attorney. That’s where he and his students come in.

“I teach an appellate litigation clinic, which is an experiential option for law students, primarily third-year students,” he says. “They get to represent real clients with real cases. Some of their cases are immigration cases, which are great from a student perspective. Students have to think about larger questions in immigration policy, and, with clients coming from different countries, students get great exposure to global diversity and see the real-world effects of the immigration law.”