The more than 10 million undocumented residents living in the United States have no constitutional right to legal representation. Without a lawyer, they are more likely to forgo legal help in dire situations and face poor outcomes as a result.
To help fill that representation gap, third-year students at the University of Nebraska College of Law’s Immigration Clinic provide free legal services to those in need. The clinic more than tripled the number of students working on cases in 2019, meeting a growing demand for deportation and asylum assistance across Nebraska.
“It’s a pretty tumultuous time for immigration and immigration policy, and that leaves a lot of clients with a lot of questions and fears,” said Sam Hawley, a Nebraska Law alumnus from Eldridge, Iowa. “To be able to be that person who can go and help address those fears and problems is a really valuable experience and what drew me specifically to the Immigration Clinic.”
“This is a valuable chance for students to actually work with clients and real cases,”Kevin Ruser
“This is a valuable chance for students to actually work with clients and real cases,”
The law college takes on around 40 pro bono cases at a time. Kevin Ruser, who founded the clinic 21 years ago, compares the experience to students having a “learner’s permit” for practicing law.
“This is a valuable chance for students to actually work with clients and real cases,” Ruser said. “I think they get enjoyment out of finally applying the theory they’ve learned up until this point in their law school career.”
The clinic’s services are in especially high demand due to Nebraska’s large refugee population. Over the years, refugees from Vietnam, Tajikistan, Bosnia and Iraq have visited frequently with citizenship questions.
“We keep a map and stick pins in every country that a client has come from that we’ve worked with, and it’s covered with pins. It just astounds me,” Ruser said.
Nebraska’s legal outreach efforts have received national recognition by the American Bar Association, which named it a Pro Bono Leader in both 2018 and 2019. The college also continues to excel in job placement for alumni, with 94% of its 2018 graduates employed within 10 months of graduation.
Nebraska news release: Law students gain experience, give back through Immigration Clinic
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