Thursday, July 27, 2017

U.S. Army Veteran Returns Home After YLS Clinics Secure Settlement

Members of the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic with Mr. Giammarco after he was sworn in as a citizen in a military naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. 

After battling in court for years, a deported U.S. Army veteran represented by two Yale Law School clinics was reunited with his family in Connecticut this month.

The homecoming came after clinic students secured a settlement on behalf of their client, Arnold Giammarco, in federal court, which permitted him to submit a new naturalization application. Giammarco has been represented by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) and the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School.

Giammarco moved lawfully to the United States with his parents in 1960, when he was four years old. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a teenager, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, an Italian who had fought for the United States in World War I and later became a U.S. citizen. After his honorable discharge in 1979, Giammarco joined the Connecticut Army National Guard. He applied for U.S. citizenship in 1982, but the government never finished processing his application.

In 2011, federal agents arrested Giammarco at his home, placed him in removal proceedings based on minor, non-violent criminal convictions from nearly a decade ago, and detained him for 18 months without bond. He was then sent back to Italy and kept apart from his wife and daughter for years.

In a New Haven Register article, Giammarco credited his return to his wife’s persistence and the determined work of the Yale Law School clinic students.

VLSC and WIRAC took on the case as a joint matter in 2013. Over nearly four years, clinic students filed and litigated two federal lawsuits, a mandamus petition to compel adjudication of his 1982 naturalization application, and a petition for writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum to allow him to testify in Hartford pursuant to a legislative subpoena issued by the Co-Chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly. Students also made three trips to the Second Circuit; submitted multiple state pardon and immigration parole applications; advocated for two private bills in the state legislature; and helped rally support among immigrant rights groups, veterans’ organizations, faith coalitions, labor unions, and other community groups.   

In March 2017, the clinic reached a settlement that permitted Giammarco to resubmit a new naturalization application and that stipulated that his larceny conviction for stealing tools — which ICE officers and prosecutors had relied on as an “aggravated felony” to justify his arrest, detention, and deportation — would not bar him from obtaining his citizenship. The settlement was not disclosed until after Giammarco returned home.

In July, clinic students Yusuf Saei ’17 and Catherine Chen ’18, along with WIRAC Cover Fellow and supervising attorney Ruben Loyo, accompanied Mr. Giammarco to his naturalization examination at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. He passed the interview and was sworn in as a citizen in a military naturalization ceremony at the Embassy the same day.

“For years, generations of students would Skype with Arnold in Italy and Sharon here in Connecticut,” said Saei. “There were lots of tearful conversations, especially when we got our hopes up about an avenue that ultimately didn’t work out.”

“Perhaps the cruelest aspect of the legal battle was the wait for decisions, just remaining in suspense,” added Chen. “But the Giammarcos are fighters, and they inspired and anchored us. We’re just overjoyed things finally aligned for our client.”

“Arnold’s fight to return home to his wife Sharon Giammarco and their daughter was an epic struggle of many years, across oceans and continents, winding through courtrooms, classrooms, and the halls of the legislature, and even into the White House,” said Michael J. Wishnie ’93, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law and co-director of WIRAC and VLSC, who supervised the case from its beginning. “It never should have had to happen. But we are proud to have played a role in making this happy ending possible.”

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) was founded in 2010 to train law students and to serve the legal needs of veterans. Under the supervision of clinical professors, clinic students engage in litigation before administrative agencies and courts on a range of matters.

The Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) represents immigrants and low-wage workers in Connecticut in labor, immigration, trafficking, and other civil rights areas, through litigation for individuals and non-litigation advocacy for community-based organizations.