Immigrant Rights Project
The Immigrant Rights Project is a one-semester, six-credit clinical program in which law students represent non-citizens in immigration matters. The Immigrant Rights Project's clients include persons seeking asylum in the United States as a result of persecution or a fear of persecution in their home countries, as well as non-citizen victims of domestic violence and other crimes, unaccompanied non-citizen minors, or other non-citizens subject to removal and immigration detention. Representation may occur in adversarial administrative hearings before immigration judges; in non-adversarial agency interviews; in appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals; or, as necessary, in appeals to the federal courts. This clinic is offered in both the fall and spring semesters
The Immigrant Rights Project provides a combination of practical legal experience, theory, intensive training and supervision not available in most traditional law school courses or legal jobs. The clinic also provides opportunities to engage in action, collaboration, reflection and service that are immensely rewarding and frequently inspiring. It is also a cross-cultural experience: students will learn a great deal about their client's country, and face the challenges and rewards of overcoming the barriers to understanding posed by differences of language and culture.
Students in the clinic assume primary responsibility for client representation, and meet regularly with Professor Elizabeth McCormick, Director of the Immigrant Rights Project, to discuss and reflect on their casework. Students work together on cases in teams of two. The tasks that students perform in a case include client interviewing; fact investigation; human rights and country condition research; preparation of applications for asylum or other immigration relief, including a detailed affidavit from the client; developing corroborating evidence in support of the client's application for asylum or other relief; preparing a brief outlining the factual and legal bases for the client's claim; locating and preparing witnesses, including experts; and preparing the client for and representing the client in Immigration Court or in a non-adversarial interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Representation of a client in an asylum or other immigration matter can be enormously challenging and time-consuming. These cases involve hours and hours of hard work and great responsibility. On average, students should expect to spend between 15 and 20 hours per week on case work. (This is in addition to class time, and time spent preparing for class.) Some weeks the time demands may be somewhat less, and some weeks they may be much more. In addition, the demands of particular cases may require students to work on evenings and weekends or to travel to meet with clients or witnesses. For students who have the time and can make the commitment, participation in the Immigrant Rights Project is a tremendously rewarding experience. Students in the clinic have a unique opportunity to perform a valuable public service, learn a new and developing area of law, obtain experience working with someone from another culture, conduct intensive factual investigation into human rights conditions, grapple with challenging ethical dilemmas, and experience the satisfaction that comes with knowing that their hard work and effective advocacy have given their client a fair opportunity to win relief and, in many cases, may have helped to save their client's life.
Professor Elizabeth McCormick