Immigration Justice Clinic

The Immigration Justice Clinic (IJC) is one of the Law School’s flagship clinical programs, enabling Student Attorneys to provide free representation to immigrants and force federal authorities to obey their own law.  Pursuant to a Student Practice Order issued by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, upper-level law students directly represent and advise clients under the close supervision of Pace Law faculty immigration experts. The Immigration Justice Clinic has successfully prepared more than 125 students for careers in immigration law, private firms, independent law offices, and nonprofit agencies. Several IJC alums have received the prestigious Immigrant Justice Corps post-graduate fellowship and been honored as “Rising Star Lawyers” and “Forty Under Forty” business leaders.  For more information about the Immigration Justice Clinic, please visit https://www.facebook.com/PaceIJC/.

The Immigration Justice Clinic serves indigent people living, working, or detained in the Hudson Valley or in the five boroughs.  Free advice and representation are offered to eligible immigrants fighting their removal from the United States and/or seeking to regularize their legal status through family ties, employment, asylum, or pursuant to specific federal categories such as Violence Against Women, Special Immigrant Juveniles, Diversity Visa, Anti-Trafficking, Temporary Protected Status, the U Visa, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  IJC Student Attorneys represent immigrants facing deportation (now called “removal”) through their appearances in the Immigration Courts of New York City and those located in numerous correctional facilities, notably Fishkill and Ulster.  All advice and representation is provided by IJC Student Attorneys authorized by New York State and federal courts and immigration authorities to practice law while supervised by a law professor.

Since federally-funded legal services offices are not allowed to help most immigrants, our region offers few other sources of free immigration legal assistance.  We work most closely with the Empire Justice Center (www.empirejustice.org).   Clients are also referred to the IJC by community organizations that advocate for immigrants, like Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco (www.neighborslink.org/), the Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck (www.crcny.org), and the Haitian Resource Center in White Plains (www.facebook.com/HaitianResourceCenter/).  We are long-term members of the New York Immigration Coalition, the Hudson Valley Community Coalition, and the Westchester Peace and Action Coalition.  The IJC also collaborates with the Pace Law School Immigration Law Society and Pace Immigration Law Practitioners, a loose association of graduates in local immigration law practice.

During interviews and counseling sessions, IJC Student Attorneys diagnose clients’ legal needs, generate alternative legal options and corresponding fact investigation plans for each possible remedy, and explain the relative risks and potential benefits to clients.  Then they prepare and submit the relevant applications with the evidence to substantiate these claims.  Student Attorneys analyze the need for expert opinions and, when appropriate, recruit and work with experts.  They organize the documentary and testimonial evidence and draft and argue motions and briefs on substantive, evidentiary and procedural issues in proceedings before the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the United States Circuit Court of Appeals.  Videotaped, critiqued simulation is used extensively to prepare for these appearances. 

Recognition of a client’s non-immigration-related legal needs, which may affect the progress and outcome of the immigration case, is an important IJC responsibility. IJC Student Attorneys have represented clients in Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps, and workers’ compensation hearings, as well as in New York State Family Court, Small Claims Court and the Consumer Affairs Department (seeking recovery of stolen wages and redress for fraudulent immigration services), and various Criminal Courts.  Recently they succeeded in negotiating a full and unconditional pardon by the Governor that will enable a deported client to return home.  We take a holistic approach to each client’s overall situation and thoroughly explore all options.

With respect to each phase of representation, IJC Student Attorneys use the planning→doing→reflecting model of experiential education, comparing the actual outcomes of their decisions with what they had anticipated in their strategic analysis.  They also examine the impact on the law and legal systems, and on lawyers and adjudicators, of the broader social phenomena that are the context of immigration law.  Student Attorneys learn how to conduct “know your rights” community education programs in several languages, and how to engage in legislative advocacy at County, State, and national levels, including the annual National Day of Action in Washington, DC of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  Active involvement of Student Attorneys in programs and committees of the New York Chapter of AILA, as well as other bar associations, is strongly encouraged.  IJC Student Attorneys most recently have played important roles in the passage of the Westchester County Immigrant Protection Act and in advocating for the creation of a specialized immigrant affairs unit in the Westchester District Attorney’s Office.

The IJC begins with a summer assignment and, before fall semester classes start, four days of “boot camp:” intensive all-day training to get “up to speed” on basic immigration law and practice.  The IJC curriculum includes significant background reading, written and in-class exercises, full-scale lawyering simulations, and “case rounds” where we plan for and reflect on task performance in actual cases.  It addresses topics such as advanced client interviewing and counseling; witness preparation, especially of experts, oral examination of witnesses, and oral argument; working effectively with interpreters and translators; and drafting and persuasive presentation of documentary evidence and argument.  All these skills are exercised with careful attention to the implications of a multilingual, multicultural environment for lawyering proficiency.  Finally, the spring seminar is largely devoted to thoughtful exploration of career decisions and various models of law practice, with special emphasis on the problems and possibilities of small/solo independent law offices.

Student schedules must accommodate occasional appearances in Immigration Courts in Manhattan and at Fishkill, NY, and visits to prisons, all about one hour by car from the Law School.  Travel expenses are reimbursed according to John Jay Legal Services policy and available resources.

Permission of the professor, based upon application and interview, is required.  Immigration Law and/or Asylum and Refugee Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Trial Advocacy, Administrative Law, and Lawyering are recommended.  Preference is given to third- and fourth-year students.

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