University of Wisconsin Law School students launched a new clinic Wednesday to help immigrants at risk of deportation navigate through the complicated legal proceedings surrounding deportation hearings.
The Immigrant Justice Clinic is the result of several years of work by the Latino Law Students Association with immigrant detainees at the Dodge County Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Juneau, Wisconsin.
According to third year law student and LLSA President Kathryn Finley, it quickly became evident the detainees had few options for much needed legal assistance due to a lack of Wisconsin attorneys willing to defend them.
“Immigration law is very complex and deportation defense…is a complicated area in immigration law,” Finley said. “So I think the students of our organization just wanted to do something to try to solve a very big problem in our own way.”
In addition to helping the detainees, Immigrant Justice Clinic Director and Wisconsin Law School Professor Stacy Taeuber said the clinic, which is open to all second and third-year law students, benefits the students.
“I’m really excited to be able to give this opportunity to the students because I know they’ve wanted it for a long time,” Taeuber said. “As an attorney in the community, I know there’s a huge unmet need for low-cost and pro bono legal services for noncitizens, particularly people in deportation proceedings, which is our focus.”
Finley pioneered the efforts to create the clinic when she began the grant-writing process for the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant, which the LLSA ultimately received. The grant provides funding to support the Immigrant Justice Clinic for three years.
But Finley said she hopes the clinic will continue to grow beyond the three-year tenure provided by the grant.
Law students are actively seeking other funding and hope to work with other student organizations and law school clinics to spread the word about Wisconsin’s low number of attorneys willing to handle cases involving immigrant detention and rights, according to Finley.
“We’re definitely hoping that it continues,” she said. “There is such a great need for a program like this in the state of Wisconsin.”