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Clinics Expand Their Reach

Bryan LoneganSMALL

With the recent expansion of Seton Hall Law’s Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, more students now are benefiting from hands-on experience in the practice and making of the law. Under the direction of Bryan Lonegan, the new Immigrant Workers Clinic has extended the Law School’s ability to assist those who are seeking asylum, as it also works on addressing issues affecting day laborers and other immigrant workers in the state. Also working on those efforts are Bassina Farbenblum, Practitioner in Residence of the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Project, and Visiting Professor Jenny-Brooke Condon. Assisting with the expansion is the New Jersey State Bar Association, which has lent its financial support to the Seton Hall Law Rising capital campaign. “I have to give Seton Hall Law a lot of credit for the strength of its clinical programs,” says Lonegan, who previously served with the Legal Aid Society in New York. “The Law School has a very well developed clinical component and one that it is expanding and growing.” Along with addressing basic human rights, one of the key purposes of the new clinic is to provide larger numbers of Seton Hall Law students with the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom. For example, students working on asylum cases, Lonegan explains, “are afforded the opportunity to work with clients, develop their interviewing and investigative skills, and practice their persuasion advocacy in the courtroom.” Working on just such a case is Jessica Vieira, a 3L. The asylum case she is handling involves a Turkish man who converted to Christianity and fears he will be tortured if he is forced back to Turkey. "I think law school should be about apprenticing; working in the clinic provides that by allowing you to learn by doing,” says Vieira. "It also is rewarding in that you feel you are helping people to change their lives.” For Lonegan and the other professors who oversee the Law School’s clinics, it’s about helping students to become better lawyers. "Good lawyers make the law,” says Lonegan, “and we want to make good lawyers.” In addition to asylum cases, other issues the clinic is handling include:

  • Seeking a reversal of the Board of Immigration Appeals decision denying asylum to victims of female genital mutilation.

  • Writing an amicus brief in support of granting asylum to children who were forced to serve as soldiers and fear returning to their native countries.

  • Filing a Freedom of Information request to check on the propriety of raids on the homes of immigrants in the state.

  • Working with religious groups on the issues surrounding day laborers.

Regarding the clinic’s focus on day laborers, Lonegan notes that the major emphasis is on the protection of basic human rights that affect all workers. Rights such as being paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work and the provision of decent working conditions. It's not only day laborers who are impacted, Lonegan adds, but the immigrant workers nearly every service industry has come to rely on, from health care to restaurants. "Along with training good lawyers, the clinics are designed to help those who might not otherwise have a voice in the legal system,” he says. “Our role is to help fill the void.”