Skip to comments.UT law students work in immigration clinic
Posted on 01/01/2008 9:19:28 AM PST by SwinneySwitch
AUSTIN There aren't many college students whose grasp of their classwork can make an immediate and profound difference in someone's life.
But at the University of Texas law school, students selected to work in an immigration clinic often defend clients who can't afford to lose their case.
"It was hands-down the most rewarding experience of my life. I felt like I had someone's life in my hands," recalls Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, a 27-year-old Austin native and UT law school senior. "There are asylum seekers who are fleeing real danger in their countries, and if they were returned, I didn't have any doubt they would be hurt or killed."
Lincoln-Goldfinch and her classmates secured the release of a pregnant Nicaraguan woman from an immigration jail so her child wouldn't be born inside. They persuaded immigration judges to grant asylum to an African schoolteacher and a half-dozen Christian families who had fled Iraq because of religious persecution.
And they took part in a lawsuit that resulted in a settlement to improve conditions for immigrant children jailed with their parents in an Austin-area detention center.
The students are part of a free immigration law clinic opened in 1999 on the oak tree-lined campus of the Austin law school. Each semester, a group of 10 to 15 promising law students are selected to work in the clinic and are soon tackling the often complex legal problems encountered by immigrants.
The UT clinic's phone number is posted on the walls of a number of immigration detention centers in Texas, and students say they get frequent calls.
"Unfortunately, resources at the immigration clinic are severely limited. We can only help a very small percentage of those who call," said Matthew Pizzo, a 24-year-old law student from Pasadena who plans to graduate from UT in May.
The clinic is directed by law professor Barbara C. Hines, a two-time Fulbright scholar and immigration attorney with more than 30 years of experience. Hines said the clinic was established because of concerns expressed by Latino law students about the scarcity of free legal services for immigrants.
"Clinics are very important, because they give students an opportunity to apply what they learn in academic classes in real work settings," Hines said. "It is a wonderful experience for students, because they actually represent clients while they're in law school."
Hines said the students do most of the hard work needed to represent clients.
"They go to court under our supervision. They present the cases. They write the legal briefs. They present the testimony in court," she said.
Among Pizzo's first clients were Chaldean Christian families who had fled Iraq, where members of the small sect are a minority. The families had surrendered to U.S. immigration authorities in Southern California, he said, and were placed in detention in Texas.
"They did not swim the river. They didn't use false documents. They went to the international crossing and said, 'Please help me, I'm seeking liberty,'" Pizzo said. "These are Iraqis who were severely persecuted. They're considered infidels, traitors and crusaders."
Many of the UT law students involved in the clinic, including Pizzo, plan a career in immigration law once they become licensed attorneys.
Parisa Fatehi, an Iranian native who graduated from UT in May, said the experience was "absolutely critical to my legal education."
"Law school equips you with some powerful tools, and being part of the clinic lets you put some of those tools to use right away," said Fatehi, 29, who works as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore in Houston.
Fatehi and other students took on the defense of a young woman from Nicaragua who had come to the United States seeking asylum after she was forced into prostitution in her home country.
The woman, who had an infant and was expecting another, was detained in the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor near Austin. During her stay at Hutto, the infant lost a disturbing amount of weight, Fatehi said.
"It exposed us to why help was needed on multiple fronts," she said.
The students persuaded a judge to release the woman, who is now awaiting conclusion to her asylum claim.
"It was consuming," Fatehi said of her clinic duties. "It was hard to compare my commitment to something I was learning in a textbook, to a woman who needed our help."
In 2007, students from the UT immigration clinic joined the American Civil Liberties Union in a suit against the government on behalf of children detained in Hutto. They alleged prisonlike conditions which violated an existing court ruling that requires the least restrictive detention facilities for minors.
The case was settled in August, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials agreed to make improvements at Hutto, including the expansion of education and medical services.
Lincoln-Goldfinch, who will graduate from UT law school in May, has been awarded a two-year fellowship financed by the Dallas-based law firm Akin Gump to provide legal services to detainees in Hutto.
"I wouldn't have pursued it, I wouldn't have known about it. None of it would have happened if I hadn't done the immigration clinic," Lincoln-Goldfinch said.
I hate that “immigrant” is always used to describe anything “illegal alien”
Thats like referring to shoplifters as “undocumented customers”.
My resolution for this year will be to correct anyone or thing that refers to illegal aliens as “immigrants”. This is nothing more than a slur against real immigrants
“Unfortunately, resources at the immigration clinic are severely limited. We can only help a very small percentage of those who call,” said Matthew Pizzo, a 24-year-old law student from Pasadena who plans to graduate from UT in May.
Let’s hope resources get even more limited.
Funny that you mention it . . . the law students at the low-income taxpayer clinic where I worked were almost universally conservative.
Of course, there are no legal immigrants or citizens in need of free legal services. Illegals are the cause du jour of the left.
Kinda’ odd for a U.S. citizen to expect legal help from an immigration law clinic.
The US citizen could be trying to work through the bureaucracy for a legal permit for, e.g., a father, cousin, wife, worker, etc. Not saying that it is necessarily the case in the story, but certainly possible and lawful. Similarly for “asylum” cases. We do have laws that allow entry for those who would be persecuted, under stated conditions in laws passed by congress. Many are phony, but many are not. Again, legit for lawyers to work on.
Need lots more information about why these potential criminals are fleeing their countries... and I doubt that a wet-behind-the-ears 27-year old law student would be able to discern that her paid-for-by-the-state client is bad news.
So I'm not surprised that these students are spending time on asylum cases, etc. (Despite the reporter's attempt to paint this as simply a "Mexican" issue, with that comment about why the clinic was created).
Ironic that these zombies from a multi-cultural indoctrination center are defending people who broke our laws trying to flee their “culture.”
MINUTE MEN of America
NRA of America
We want to know.....what the hell are you waiting for?
Your endorsements could make the difference in the upcoming elections. If you haven't noticed, you have the perfect candidate in the race. The future of stopping illegal immigration and the individuals right to bear arms are at stake. Failure to give your support to the right person could cost all freedom loving Americans dearly. Your members want you to endorse a person that will stop illegal immigration and secure our rights to bear arms. A true conservative is the only choice, no liberal republicans or democrats need apply.
Everyone needs to call NRA headquarters / Minute Men headquarters today and voice our opinions. I have.
"When I am president, I will build a fence."
"My idea of gun control is a good, steady aim."
Mexicans rarely or never come under these headings. Most valid caes involve Chinese (forced abortions), Albanians (political persecution), Iraqi Christians, Cubans, some Sudanese and Mauritanians (oppression by Muslim Arabs v. black Christians or pagans). Most invalid ones involve phony claims of any of the above.
But, it's not "PC" anything -- it's a legal category, which people are entitled to apply for, per laws pased by Congress.
Has been used in the past by Jews from Europe, Hungarians after 1956 revolution, Vietnamese and Laotians after the Dems sold them out, etc.
1. my post was sarcasm
2. Cases are in Texas... Why would asylum seekers be entering the U.S. illegally through Mexico? (That's what the article said.)
Lots of folks from all over the world first get to the US through Mexico. That's what we hear all the time, and it is true. I'm not saying all asylum seekers are genuine, or even that most are -- but we have laws that allow them to enter, if genuine, and we have a process for judging them. Sometimes people actually present at the border, and say "I seek asylum"; sometimes they sneak in and then apply, and the law says that the illegal entry doesn't count against you if you apply within a year and if your claim is otherwise genuine.
SO, there's nothing impossible, or even very unusual for someone to high-tail it out of, e.g., Bosnia, Uzbekistan, China, Mauritania, Sudan, and work your way to mexico and then enter there. Again, I'm not saying that any given case is legit, or that most are, but some are, and that's exactly how it happens. They make application, it's judged by the INS (now ICE), either side can appeal, etc., etc.
Also, if you do present at the border and claim asylum, you usually get an informal interview right away. Depending on how that goes, you may be allowed to enter pending your application being processed and adjudicated. And you better believe that you will do better in that process if you have a decent lawyer. Lots of claimants have sleazy incompetent ones -- some in order to push phony claims, but some get screwed even if they have good claims.
Quisling School of Law bump!