Julia Potach (she/her/hers) combats racial injustices caused by the disparate impact of the “crimmigration” system through collaborative litigation and education for noncitizens who urgently need to overturn unjust convictions.
As large numbers of refugees and immigrants have made Minnesota their home, many have come in contact with the criminal justice system, which disproportionately impacts communities of color at every stage. Criminal convictions make refugees and immigrants ineligible to adjust their immigration status or seek relief, regardless of the circumstances of their arrest and evidence of rehabilitation. While post-conviction relief promises a way to successfully mitigate the adverse immigration consequences of a conviction, immigration legal service providers have historically lacked the capacity and specialized training to provide representation that spans both the federal immigration and state criminal legal systems.
Julia provided legal services to families held in the country’s largest immigration detention center before attending law school. Her work there inspired her to advocate for the most marginalized and vulnerable immigrants.
During her Fellowship, Julia will represent immigrants and refugees with criminal records, especially those who would be good candidates for post-conviction relief and have long periods of residence in the community. She will also engage in advocacy efforts to increase access to immigration-related post-conviction relief in Minnesota. Additionally, she will provide community legal education about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and the availability of post-conviction relief vehicles to mitigate such consequences.
For many noncitizens with criminal records, post-conviction relief is the only way to remain in the United States and avoid indefinite separation from their families and communities.
Julia Potach /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Paul engaged in habeas corpus and other federal immigration litigation to defend low-income immigrants in Minnesota against unlawful immigration detention.
Recent years have seen unprecedented numbers in federal immigration detention under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The impact of mass immigration incarceration is particularly acute in Minnesota, as the state is home to large immigrant and refugee populations, including the nation’s largest population of Somalis. While procedurally complicated, federal habeas actions are the most powerful tool to defend noncitizens’ individual liberties. Unfortunately, the vast majority of detainees lack counsel and only a handful of Minnesota attorneys have habeas expertise in the immigration context
Paul applied to law school while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Guatemala. His experiences there repeatedly demonstrated the vital importance of working to ensure each and every person has equal access to the justice system and inspired him to spend his career representing similarly marginalized and underrepresented populations.
During his Fellowship, Paul:
- Represented a medically vulnerable individual in a case challenging her continued detention during the COVID-19 pandemic and secured her release after 18 months in immigration detention.
- Challenged the constitutionality of an immigrant’s prolonged detention during withholding-only proceedings and secured his release after nearly 20 months of civil detention.
- Co-counseled Pedro O. v. Garland, the First District of Minnesota habeas decision requiring the government to bear the burden of proof at an initial bond hearing ordered for a noncitizen detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c).
- Prevented the imminent deportation of a United States citizen and secured his release after 10 months in ICE custody.
Paul continues to work for his host organization, ACLU of Minnesota, as a staff attorney. His work focuses on defending and expanding the constitutional rights of noncitizens subject to civil immigration detention.