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Saturday, December 2, 2023


Vail to receive posthumous award

A memorial service to honor Joseph Vail, revered law professor and founder of the UH Law Center’s Immigration Clinic, will be held at 5 p.m. today at the Law Center, Heritage Room. Vail died June 17 at the age of 56.

The native Philadelphia attorney, former immigration judge and UH law professor will be named this year’s recipient of the Carol King Award for his lifetime of work dedicated to protecting and advocating immigrant rights.

The award, for which Vail was nominated before his death by 111 of his collgeagues, was presented by the National Immigration Project.

"It was unfortunate that the award was posthumous. (Vail) was a good colleague and a distinguished law professor," said Michael Olivas, director of the Institute of Higher Education Law and Governance and UH professor of law. "He was very committed to his students and his work."

Vail became an immigration judge in 1995 and stepped down from his position in 1999 to teach law at the University. While here he built and eventually served as director for the Immigration Clinic that now serves those seeking citizenship.

"In some ways, (the Clinic) is very much the same-our mission, our clients and our students. In other ways, it’s completely different. Joe’s energy, spirit and passion impacted the clinic very much and with him gone, it’s never going to be the same again," Anne Chandler, interim director of the Immigration Clinic, said.

Through the Immigration Clinic, Vail was able to combine his passion for helping immigrants, and educating students about the law. The Clinic provided a unique venue for law students to directly represent clients.

"I think he would like to be remembered as someone who worked hard to change the situation immigrants have found themselves in with the lack of procedural protection in the law," Chandler said. "He continued to challenge both his students and colleagues to do what they could in the courtroom to fulfill every immigrant’s dream of a cohesive family."

A scholarship fund was also created in his honor. Vail’s friends, family, professional colleagues and immigration attorneys of Texas have donated $25,000 to the scholarship fund, which will be awarded to law students.

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