When a new Immigration Law Clinic was announced to the College of Law community last spring, it was to the great delight of our students, many of whom had been petitioning the College to expand its clinical offerings into this area.
Professor Lauren Aronson was hired to launch the Clinic, bringing her experience directing a similar clinic at LSU as well as many years of immigration law experience at both the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago and Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic.
Aronson readily admits that she has a lot of ambitions for the newly established Immigration Law Clinic, the main mission being to provide direct legal services to members of the community who cannot otherwise afford them. Aronson and her students are primarily focused on humanitarian relief, and they are currently working on u-visas (visas available to victims of crime in the United States), a few asylum cases, and several cases involving securing status for unaccompanied minors.
Aronson is also passionate about outreach and education. She wants the community to know what is going on in immigration, and understands how confusing the topic can be, even for those who specialize in the area, like herself.
“My hope is to keep up with it (the constant changes, etc.) and to keep the community informed. That includes informing immigrants of their rights, their options, and new evolutions in the law, but also getting that information out there into the rest of the community,” she said.
So far, Aronson is encouraged by the mobilization of the local community behind immigration rights.
“I’ve been asked to speak at many community-based organizations, and people are clearly engaged and committed to this issue,” she said.
Aronson plans to deploy her students to help dispel rumors about the reasons people choose to immigrate, and to educate people about the complicated legal process for immigrants. Each of her students is studying a specific topic in immigration law that can then be shared with members of the community (e.g. delivering presentations to English-Language-Learning high school students about their rights, or giving talks to local public defenders).
“I think it’s a huge issue that people don’t understand, and that our administration doesn’t understand. Making it harder to get into this country isn’t going to change someone’s mind when they are fleeing for their life. It’s just not how that works,” Aronson said.
Aronson also hopes to create a more open line of communication amongst all the immigration legal services providers in the area, and is working to create partnerships on campus and in the community. One such partnership is with the New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the University YMCA. The NAWC provides a certain amount of services to immigrants, and they were recently accredited to do asylum cases. Aronson is collaborating with the NAWC on an asylum case by having one of her students and a member of the NAWC work together under her supervision.
The NAWC has also been paramount in her endeavor to build a client base and get the word out to immigrants in the community about the Clinic. Aronson and her students volunteer regularly at the NAWC’s monthly intake sessions. They have also gotten case referrals via local lawyers, The Refugee Center, The Immigration Project, and simple word of mouth.
In addition to all of her community outreach and education efforts, Aronson is of course committed to ensuring that her 8 student clinicians come away from the experience with stronger lawyering and writing skills, as well as an elevated level of cultural competency.
Perhaps most important, she hopes that they gain an appreciation for social justice.
“I hope that they learn what it means to be a zealous advocate. They may not all practice in this area, but hopefully they will maintain an understanding of the importance of this work. I hope that they understand the complexity of immigration law and feel confident dispelling misconceptions about it,” she said.
The College of Law has responded to the heightened interest in immigration law in other ways as well. An expanded course offering in the area of immigration law now includes an introductory course as well as an upper level course on humanitarian relief in U.S. immigration law. Several of our faculty are engaging regularly on the topic, including Professor Lesley Wexler’s blog posts on European immigration at Justia.com, and Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson’s efforts to host legal experts and scholars to speak about a variety of topics related to immigration.
For inquiries related to the Immigration Law Clinic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.