UNLV Law Clinic One of Seven Organizations in the Nation to Receive Justice AmeriCorps Grant to Serve Immigrant Children

September 22, 2014

For immigrant children, immigration court is a daunting place and having a lawyer can mean the difference between staying here or being deported. Children are not entitled to appointed counsel in immigration court, and few, if any, can afford counsel. In Las Vegas, children in immigration court will now get counsel through a new grant sponsored by the Justice Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the AmeriCorps national service programs.

This month the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law was one of seven organizations in the nation, and the only law school, to receive funding to represent unaccompanied children in immigration court. The funding effort comes in response to an influx of migrant children from Central America, many of whom arrive without a parent or guardian. The grant will fund two lawyer positions in the law school clinic.

“The law school is proud to be a catalyst for resources to address this national issue that is so important to our community,” said Daniel Hamilton, dean and Richard J. Morgan Professor of Law at the William S. Boyd School of Law. “This is good for the children, the law school, and the community.”

The two lawyers will work with students and faculty in the law school’s Immigration Clinic, which has partnered with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The partnership leverages the expertise of each organization. Professors Fatma Marouf and Michael Kagan, who co-direct the Immigration Clinic, have expertise in removal defense, including working with trauma victims and petitioning for relief from deportation. The clinic lawyers will work with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to conduct community outreach and recruit and train pro bono lawyers to assist with the cases.

“We are thrilled to provide these critical services to these children, and directly engage our students in this work,” said Associate Dean Anne Traum, who oversees the law school clinic. “Our students have heard about this crisis in the news. To interview a child, evaluate the child’s case, and seek relief for that child in court will add meaning and experience to our students’ legal education.”

Las Vegas currently has a docket of approximately 150 child cases pending in the immigration court, which has only one immigration judge.

“Having counsel increases the rate of success for children who are eligible for relief. Counsel can ensure that all children understand the proceedings, which will enable the court to handle cases more efficiently,” said Professor Marouf. “We’re also focusing on identifying victims of human trafficking or abuse, and pursuing relief and services for those children."

Many children have migrated to escape abuse, persecution, or violence.

The two lawyers and clinic faculty will attend trainings later this year on immigration laws and regulations applicable to unaccompanied children; immigration proceedings practice and procedure; ethics for professionals working with children and youths; and trauma-informed and culturally appropriate models of interacting with unaccompanied children.

For more information, contact Fatma Marouf at (702) 895-2086 or fatma.marouf@unlv.edu.