LAS VEGAS – The UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law today formally launched the Edward M. Bernstein & Associates Children’s Rights Program in which attorneys and law students work together to represent unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings.
During a ceremony Nov. 16 at the law school’s Thomas & Mack Moot Courtroom, university leadership, elected officials and community supporters recognized a transformational $250,000 gift from Edward M. Bernstein & Associates that will enable the school to continue its work on behalf of local unaccompanied immigrant children.
"A core mission of the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law is to serve as a legal resource and partner for our local community, which we could not fulfill without the support of individuals and organizations throughout the community,” said Daniel W. Hamilton, dean of the UNLV Boyd School of Law. “We are honored and humbled by Edward M. Bernstein & Associates’ generous gift, and are thrilled this will allow the staff and students to continue this important work."
Three years ago, the UNLV Immigration Clinic was one of only seven organizations – and the only law school – to receive an AmeriCorps grant to provide legal defense to children fleeing violence and abuse in Central America who arrived alone in the United States. However, the AmeriCorps program has been discontinued causing UNLV’s grant to end in October. The Bernstein's donation will fund the clinic for the next five years and ensure its work will carry on uninterrupted.
"I am proud of our UNLV Boyd School of Law which has taken a leadership role in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable of our society and insuring that justice is available to all of us," said Ed Bernstein. "My wife Claudia emigrated from Peru 25 years ago and that personal connection makes immigration issues near and dear to my heart, as well as civil liberties and law-related matters."
The Children’s Rights Program works closely with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to represent unaccompanied children in both family court and in their immigration cases.
"The Bernstein’s commitment to the children of the Las Vegas community will ensure our mission to represent minors who have fled abuse find safety and stability in the U.S.," said Michael Kagan, Professor of Law and director of the Immigration Clinic. "The Clinic offers direct representation to as many of these children as it can, and trains other pro bono lawyers to do the same."
Today’s ceremony included welcome remarks from Senator Harry Reid and a keynote address by Tyler Moran, managing director of the D.C. Immigration Hub, former senior policy advisor for Sen. Harry Reid, and former Immigration Deputy Policy Director for the White House Domestic Policy Council un-der President Obama. Additional speakers and supporters, included: Barbara Buckley, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada Executive Director; Yvanna D. Cancela, Nevada State Senate; Edgar Flores, Nevada State Assembly; Jason Frierson, Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly; Michael Kagan, Professor of Law and Director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic; Sam Lieberman, Nevada Board of Regents; and Tom Thomas, Thomas & Mack Company.
The work of the Children’s Rights Program is closely linked to the nationally recognized Kids’ Court School, which educates child witnesses – many of whom are victims of abuse – about court and teaches them strategies to reduce anxiety while testifying. The Kids’ Court School has served over 1,200 children in the past decade and has recently expanded to the National Judicial College in Reno. The program is expanding its award-winning work in educating child witnesses to educating children and youth about immigration proceedings.
"I initially became involved because I felt the need to assist so many immigrants who lack resources to win the right to stay safely in this country," said Claudia Noriega-Bernstein, marketing director at Edward M. Bernstein & Associates and children’s rights advocate. "After learning everything that the UNLV Kids’ Court School does for our local children, I became even more passionate about giving all children in our community a voice especially because if these kids are deported to their native countries they are often subjected to horrific violence."
A fundraising event is planned for May 2018 to secure additional funding for the UNLV Kids’ Court School.