Beginning in 1987, students in the Civil Clinic were assigned immigration cases as a part of their overall caseload. However, it became clear to Civil Clinic faculty members that immigration cases required Clinic students to become familiar with a very complex area of law. Further, immigration cases traditionally take more than a semester to complete. Those two facts led the Civil Clinic faculty to create the Immigration Clinic, which became operational in 1998. The Immigration Clinic co-exists with the Civil Clinic and, although it is a separate clinic, shares office space and staff support with the Civil Clinic. Since that time, the Immigration Clinic has helped over 169 clients with immigration problems. The Immigration Clinic is the only clinical program at the College of Law that is longer than one semester – Immigration Clinic students enroll in the Immigration Clinic for a year. The length of the Clinic maximizes the students’ experiences with immigration clients, and allows them to do a “deep dive” into the area of immigration law. Further, the year-long design of the Clinic allows students to develop a rapport with their clients over the course of a year that allows the clients to trust the students’ work in such sensitive and life-or-death matters such as asylum claims, U visa petitions for crime victims, or VAWA self-petitions for victims of domestic abuse.
As with other clinical offerings at the College of Law, the pedagogical goals of the Immigration Clinic are to allow students to apply theory to practice, assume professional responsibility for clients’ cases by acting in role as their clients’ legal representatives, and be exposed to ethical issues that arise during their time in the Clinic. Although students represent immigrants in the Immigration Clinic, Clinic alums have gone on to varied careers, including working for the Department of Homeland Security, traditional private practice (both civil and criminal), transactional work, and agency work, as well as representing immigration clients. The skills and knowledge Immigration Clinic students receive during their time in the Clinic have proven to be an asset to them no matter what type of legal career they choose once they graduate.