Faculty: Professors Valeria Gomez and Emily Johanson
The Immigrant Rights Clinic is a six-credit, one-semester course (that is offered in the Fall semester only) in which students have the opportunity to learn many dimensions of lawyering by engaging in both direct client representation and immigrant rights policy work. Under faculty supervision, the students serve clinic clients in a variety of matters, from written filings for crime survivors (domestic violence, trafficking and other crimes) that are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to asylum and other matters that are heard in Baltimore's immigration court. Students may also individually handle less complicated immigration matters, such as renewing employment authorization documents, extending temporary protected status, or filing for citizenship.
Additionally, students may collaborate on one issue related to systemic law reform to improve the procedures and laws that shape our immigrant clients' lives. The IRC focuses particularly on issues of concern in Baltimore and Maryland. The policy work may include such projects as monitoring immigration enforcement issues, preparing reports on immigrant rights issues, or doing legislative work before and during Maryland's annual legislative session.
Clients in the Immigrant Rights Clinic come from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and Latin America. The clinic's caseload touches on many areas of immigration practice, including asylum law, protection for victims of human trafficking, protection for battered immigrants, protection for victims of certain types of crimes, cancellation of removal and family reunification. Students serve as the clients' primary representatives, and under the supervision of faculty they undertake the work necessary for their clients, from interviewing the clients to investigating facts, researching the relevant law, drafting briefs and affidavits, filing applications for relief and supporting documentation, and, where required, representing clients in immigration interviews and in court. Students also attend a weekly three-hour seminar focusing on the multiple lawyering skills required to be an effective advocate, from interviewing and counseling to working with interpreters to writing persuasively for many different audiences to trial skills in the context of immigration court.
Recent clients include the following:
- Central American children who have won asylum because of their fears of the terrible gang violence in their countries. One young woman, who had been gang-raped, won asylum and, inspired by the clinic’s work, has set herself the new goal of studying to become a lawyer.
- A man from Honduras who had long cared for his much younger brother; the clinic helped him secure custody over his brother, and put the younger brother on a path to lawful permanent residence.
- Several individuals from countries throughout Africa whose political opinions angered their governments; the clinic won asylum for them.
- An elderly gay gentleman from El Salvador who endured many decades of unrelenting abuse, and later became a victim of notario fraud in the United States, which complicated his immigration case considerably. The clinic won his asylum case.
- A Nepali refugee, living in Baltimore, who was detained on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and is now back living with his family in Baltimore again after we won his case in immigration court.
- A gay teenager from Jamaica who had never lived openly as a gay man in Jamaica; we won asylum for him, and he now has lawful permanent residence.
Prerequisite: First-year day courses
Co- or Prerequisite: Professional Responsibility
Policies and Procedures:
The Immigrant Rights Clinic selects all of its students under the lottery system.