Immigrant Rights Project
The Immigrant Rights Project is a one-semester, six-credit clinical education 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. 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.
Structure and Requirements of the Clinic
There are three major facets of the Immigrant Rights Project clinic program: client work, case team meetings, and seminars.
Client work is central to a student’s clinic experience. Students in the Immigrant Rights Project assume primary responsibility for client representation. Students work together on cases in teams of two. The tasks that students typically perform in a case include interviewing the client; extensive fact investigation; researching the human rights record of the client’s country of origin; preparing the application for relief, including a detailed affidavit from the client; developing corroborating evidence that helps to show that the client is entitled to relief; preparing a brief outlining the factual and legal bases for the client’s claim; locating and preparing witnesses, including experts; and representing the client at an immigration interview or a removal hearing in Immigration Court. Students typically spend a minimum of 18-20 hours per week working on their clients' cases.
Case Team Meetings
Each student team meets regularly (generally once a week, but sometimes more) with clinic faculty for an in-depth discussion of the casework. These meetings are used to help students recognize, analyze and resolve the multitude of strategic, tactical, ethical, and interpersonal issues that arise in representing clients. Clinic students and faculty, together with clients and witnesses, also participate in “moots” to prepare for each immigration interview or hearing.
The Immigrant Rights Project seminar meets once a week, for two hours. Classes are used for a variety of purposes. Early in the semester, a few classes are used to survey the substantive law involved in Clinic cases. Other classes are devoted to teaching essential lawyering skills that students will use in their casework; many of these classes involve role-playing exercises or workshops based on students’ actual cases. Class time is also used for "case rounds," in which students share and learn from each other's experiences. Guest speakers, including immigration judges and domestic violence experts, may be invited to selected classes.
Enrollment in the Clinic
Enrollment in the clinic is open to any second or third year JD student in good academic standing. Enrollment in the clinic is limited to 8 students per semester. To be eligible for enrollment a student must have taken or be concurrently enrolled in Professional Responsibility.
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. 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.
Please contact Professor Elizabeth McCormick with any questions about the Immigrant Rights Project or clinical education programs at the College of Law.
Professor Elizabeth McCormick
Director, Clinical Education Programs