Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto visited the UNLV Immigration Clinic yesterday and spent close to 90 minutes hearing from teenagers represented who had fled gang violence in Central America. She also listened to representatives of the UNLV UndocuNetwork, a student organization at UNLV, about the challenges facing immigrant students at the university.
Sen. Cortez Masto listened to two boys, one who fled Nicaragua and one who fled Honduras. They described the violence they had escaped, and their harrowing journeys through Mexico. Two recent clinic graduates, Justin Corne (BSL '17) and Mayra Salinas (BSL '17), described the plight of clients they had helped during their time as student attorneys in the clinic. AmeriCorps fellow Laura Barrera described the legal challenges that children fleeing violence face when they arrive, and the efforts that the Department of Homeland Security has been undertaking to force the children to return home.
As of August 2016, the Department of Homeland Security had 1,112 deportation cases pending against children in the the Las Vegas Immigration Court. Most of these unaccompanied children fled grotesque gang violence in Central America. With a five-year, $250,000 donation from Edward M. Bernstein and Associates, the Immigration Clinic represents around 120 of these children, and trains other pro bono lawyers to do the same. The clinic works closely with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (LACSN) to represent unaccompanied children in both family court and in their immigration cases.
The former Attorney General of Nevada, Sen. Cortez Masto has a longstanding interest in combating human trafficking. In April 2015, before she was a senator, she visited the clinic and brainstormed solutions to immigration cases with students attorneys. At the end of her visit yesterday, Immigration Clinic Director Michael Kagan showed her the hand prints that the clinic takes to remember the children that it has helped find safety in the U.S.