Elisabeth Haub School of Law Graduates Secure Major Immigrant Rights Victory

Craig Relles & Steven Haskos

Pace Law graduates Craig Relles ’12 and Steven Haskos ’11 have won a path-breaking decision challenging indefinite detention of asylum-seekers without a hearing. This victory is only one of several recently that highlight the outstanding work of students and alums of the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic. For more than a dozen years the Immigration Justice Clinic has provided free representation to indigent immigrants who are facing deportation or seeking to regularize their legal status. 

Mr. Relles and Mr. Haskos’ client, Adou Kouadio, a citizen of the Ivory Coast, asked for asylum at the Texas border in early 2016. For almost three years, his request has remained in limbo while Mr. Kouadio has been detained with no judicial review of the rationale for keeping him in jail. In August 2018, Craig Relles filed a habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In December, a federal judge ruled that ICE had violated his due process rights. As a result of this ruling, Mr. Kouadio finally received a bond hearing, which was successful and he will now be released.  

“Pace Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic provides vital services to immigrants in Westchester and beyond,” said Dean Horace Anderson. “The work this clinic does, along with that of our nationally recognized immigration faculty experts, is second to none. We are proud of the work alumni such as Craig and Steven are doing to ensure that the rights of all those in our society are protected.”

Professor Vanessa Merton, Faculty Supervisor of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law commented, “Once again, the Law Office of Craig Relles has demonstrated that topnotch advocates can make justice happen, perhaps saving their client’s life in the process. Pace Law School has reason to be proud of the work of Craig Relles and Steven Haskos in securing minimum due process rights for detained immigrants.”  

“We are very happy with Judge Hellerstein's decision and we hope that courts will continue to closely scrutinize the lengthy detention of asylum applicants without a bond hearing. While their rights may be statutorily limited, the Judge sent a clear message with this decision: that due process under the Constitution protects nonresident immigrants arriving at the border,” noted attorney Steven Haskos.

“Securing Mr. Kouadio's release on bond is a just conclusion to his detention saga. Judge Hellerstein recognized that Mr. Kouadio's detention violated due process, and that the remedy was a bond hearing wherein the Government had the burden of establishing that Mr. Kouadio was a danger to the community and a flight risk. While the Immigration Court ordered a bond amount greater than we requested, we are happy that he will be able to enjoy freedom while his asylum appeal is adjudicated” explained Mr. Kouadio’s attorney, Craig Relles.

Craig graduated from Pace Law cum laude in 2012. During his time at Pace, Craig was a Student Attorney in the John Jay Legal Services Immigration Justice Clinic. At graduation, Craig received the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Award. After graduation, Craig was selected as a fellow at the Pace Community Law Practice, a post-graduate program to develop competent, ethical immigration lawyers, where he worked on a variety of legal issues and cases and also learned the ins and outs of successfully opening your own law practice.

Steven Haskos graduated from Pace Law cum laude in 2011. He was a member of the Pace International Law Review in 2010 and 2011, serving in 2011 as the Case Note and Comment Editor. He began working with Craig in 2014, primarily handling habeas corpus petitions and appellate proceedings at the Board of Immigration Appeals, as well as Petitions for Review in the Second Circuit.  Steven works closely with young immigrants seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and other avenues to legal residence and citizenship.

In 2013, Craig launched the Law Office of Craig Relles with one focus in mind: justice for immigrants. The firm is based in White Plains. Working together with Craig and Steven at the firm is Christina Romano, another Pace Law graduate, 2016 cum laude.