Shaping the Law

Boyd students make Immigration Clinic vital to community

By: Pat McDonnell

For two decades, UNLV’s Immigration Clinic has safeguarded its local community from the fear of deportation.

Joyce Mack Professor of Law Michael Kagan, director of the school’s student-led clinic since 2011, says its Community Advocacy Office has opened doors to people striving to stay in the United States and been a haven for unaccompanied minors. For example, the clinic’s Managing Attorney Alissa Cooley and Katelyn Leese, both 2014 Boyd grads who were funded to provide legal service through Justice AmeriCorps grants, helped more than 100 unaccompanied children and teens avoid deportation through their representation.

“Thanks to the work Alissa and Katelyn did (from 2014 to 2016), virtually every one of those kids has a green card now,” Kagan said. “I’m proud that several people who are alums of the law school paved the way.”

Those who study the law also pave the way by shaping the law. Coco Padilla (’22) crafted a bill draft request to help immigrants in Nevada receive pro-bono deportation defense. Those services at the Community Advocacy Office were a Silver State first. The Nevada Legislature ap-
proved Padilla’s new policy idea as Assembly Bill 376, signed into law June 11, 2021. It allocated $500,000 to the Immigration Clinic.

“Coco’s work was the spark of all that,” Kagan said. The clinic also provides free legal services to UNLV students, staff and their families.

Kagan looks to a reformed immigration system as his hope for the Immigration Clinic’s future over the next two decades, a time when deportation will be less of a focus in so many lives.

“That’s so our work would be less necessary,” he said. “My first dream would be that we’re not in business in that way. I hope we will always be seen as a neighbor who is there when we’re needed.”