Michael Keegan / Immigration Clinic
Friday, October 1, 2021 | 7:25 p.m.
At the UNLV Immigration Clinic, law students assist staff lawyers in local deportation cases involving unaccompanied children and people in detention.
New funding from the Clark County Commission will further strengthen these services, bolstering a vital resource during a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted undocumented immigrants.
The $ 500,000 awarded to the clinic will be spread over two years, matching a similar allocation from Nevada Assembly Bill 376 that was approved earlier in 2021. The funds allow the clinic to open new ones. positions and create an off-campus community advocacy office, both expanding the clinic’s essential services.
“The UNLV Immigration Clinic has become an invaluable resource for residents of southern Nevada facing deportation proceedings,” said Sara Gordon, Acting Dean of UNLV William S School of Law. Boyd, in a statement. “This additional funding will allow us to expand our delivery of free legal services in a location accessible to all members of our community, and will give the Clinic’s law students the opportunity to practice law closer to the people they serve.” .
Immigration Clinic law students may practice law under the supervision of a lawyer licensed by Nevada under Rule 49.5 of the Supreme Court of Nevada. Their course load equates to two classes of work, said clinic director Michael Kagan.
The clinic is the main Las Vegas institution that offers free eviction defense services, Kagan said. This fills a needed gap in southern Nevada, he said, as the legal system often fails on those who need a lawyer most, such as those in custody or unaccompanied children.
âClinical law programs like ours generally attempt to meet needs that are not adequately met by the private bar,â he said. “It became very clear, I think, that Las Vegas in particular has been a wasteland of eviction defense.”
In 2016, 210,000 residents were undocumented, according to the most recent data from the Pew Research Center released in 2019. A record 44.8 million immigrants lived in the United States in 2018, of which 23% are undocumented. That same year, Las Vegas was one of the top 20 metropolitan areas in the United States with the highest number of immigrants.
Maria Nieto Orta, State Coordinator at Mi Familia Vota, is an undocumented immigrant with Temporary Deferred Action Status for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). With family members battling eviction cases, Orta said she had witnessed firsthand the grueling and expensive court proceedings.
Appeals and other fees required in immigration courts are $ 110 each depending on the type of appeal. In addition to financial barriers, undocumented immigrants were also not eligible for unemployment benefits or stimulus checks earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
âIt’s that mental exhaustion of not knowing what’s going to happen to you,â Orta said.
Mi Familia Vota is an organization part of the Nevada Immigrant Coalition (NIC), a local group that amplifies the voices of immigrants and advocates for better immigration law that was instrumental in passing funds from the Clark County Commission.
Other organizations in the NIC are Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Culinary Union, Make the Road Nevada, ACLU of Nevada, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Asian Community Development Council, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, ECDC – African Community Center, Faith in Action Nevada, For Nevada’s Future, ONE APIA Nevada, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, SEIU 1107, UndocuNetwork and the Immigration Clinic.
Rico Ocampo, immigration justice organizer at Make the Road Nevada, said the funding was a hard-fought victory for immigrant communities.
âI have temporary DACA status,â he said. âI couldn’t imagine what it would have been like when my parents came to pick up [U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] and not having due process and fairness to fight their case and essentially having to represent themselves against a qualified government lawyer. And so, for me, it was deeply personal.