Professors: Lori Nessel and Rebecca Feldmann
Offered: Fall and spring semesters.
Students in the Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic represent people from all over the world who are in need of protection from persecution, trafficking and torture, as well as non-citizens who have survived domestic violence or other violent crimes in the United States. In addition to representing clients before asylum officers and in federal Immigration Court, students may also represent clients in appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Second and Third Circuits, or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Students may also be engaged in human rights reporting and fact-finding as well as advocacy before international bodies.
Recently, Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights clinical students have:
- Published a human rights report documenting hundreds of cases in which U.S. hospitals have repatriated seriously ill or disabled non-citizen patients through extra-judicial processes. This report also analyzes the body of laws that incentivize this life-threatening practice.
- Won asylum in immigration court for a young father from Somalia who survived torture and shooting by the al-Quaeda-affiliated group al-Shabaab.
- Won asylum for a client fleeing violence in Syria.
- Won asylum for a political activist who protested against human rights violations in his home country in West Africa.
- Published a human rights report documenting the hardship faced by men and women fleeing persecution abroad due to policies that deny work authorization to many asylum-seekers. (Co-authored with Human Rights Watch)
- Won asylum for a woman from Guatemala who survived severe domestic violence in her home country, and won asylum for her children.
- Filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking justice for victims of two politically-motivated massacres in Haiti.
- Obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for a teenage girl from Honduras who fled to the United States on her own.
- Represented survivors of Female Genital Mutilation on their claims for asylum.
- Assisted men and women detained in Immigration detention centers in Northern New Jersey.
- Obtained a special U visa for a father from Mexico who survived a violent workplace assault in the United States, and obtained U visas for his wife and children.
- Organized workshops to support young Dreamers (teenagers and young adults who were brought to the United States as children without documents) in filing applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
By acting as lead counsel in cases like these, students learn many facets of lawyering, including problem solving, interviewing and counseling, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research and writing, factual investigation, oral advocacy, and organization and management of legal work. These cases present students interested in areas including International Human Rights, Immigration Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Family Law with a unique opportunity to learn about human rights conditions around the world and to see how immigration status interacts with so many other areas of law.
CLINICAL LAW PRACTICE
Students will work in teams under the supervision of Professors Nessel and Feldmann in all phases of representation from initial client interviews through court hearings. Students interview and counsel clients; work with interpreters; interview witnesses; conduct factual investigations; prepare petitions, affidavits, legal briefs and policy reports; engage in legal research and analysis; prepare clients and witnesses for interviews and court hearings; and litigate cases in court. Students may also be engaged in community outreach, such as trainings for immigrant workers, and in human rights fact-finding and reporting. Students should expect to devote at least fifteen hours a week to their clinical work, including six hours of scheduled office time for case reviews and client meetings and should expect occasions such as trials and filing deadlines where considerably more hours may be required. Students must have flexibility in their schedules to accommodate the demands of an active litigation practice.
The clinical experience also includes a one credit seminar that meets once a week for two hours and covers substantive areas of immigration, asylum, refugee, international human rights and labor law, and offers an opportunity for group discussion of ethical and strategic issues that arise in each case.
CRITERIA FOR ADMISSION
In addition to the general clinic pre-requisites, consideration will also be given to the student's prior experience, interest in the subject area, commitment to public interest law and proficiency in a language commonly spoken by the client population. Students are encouraged to take an Immigration Law or International Human Rights course as well.