Immigration Law and Policy Clinic
“ILPC students develop essential lawyering skills while helping migrants navigate some of the most treacherous waters our legal system offers. The ILPC trains students not only in the science of legal representation, but also in the art of advocacy -- all while providing representation to individuals who would otherwise face detention and potential deportation without an attorney.”
– ILPC Student Attorney (September 2018)
On August 6, 2018, seven intrepid students reported for the first day of the intensive three-week orientation of the brand new Immigration Law and Policy Clinic (ILPC) at Denver Law. Two months later, they had already secured the release from immigration detention of their first three clients.
The need for an immigration clinic at Denver Law had become particularly acute in today’s climate of hyper-enforcement of immigration laws. There is no constitutional right to counsel in immigration removal cases, so noncitizens are represented only when they can afford to hire counsel or if they secure pro bono counsel. This problem of underrepresentation is exacerbated by detention—often the person facing deportation is the family’s main breadwinner and retaining private counsel is impossible. In fiscal year 2017, for example, only about 11% of people detained at the Aurora immigration detention center (a private jail run by the “GEO”—Global Excellence in Outsourcing—corporation) were represented in their deportation proceedings. The importance of representation is underscored by dramatically differing success rates for those represented (about 23% of those represented in 2017 received a grant of relief or termination of their proceedings) and those forced to proceed without counsel (of whom barely 3% enjoyed such success).
In light of this representation gap, the ILPC focuses on representing clients detained in the Aurora detention center who cannot afford counsel. The ILPC engages students in immigration removal practice with a particular emphasis on cases that present issues at the intersection of criminal and immigration law—issues pertaining to detention, enforcement, and the impact of criminal convictions on a person’s immigration status. In its first three cases, ILPC students challenged the government’s arguments that our clients’ misdemeanor criminal convictions—from as long ago as 19 years—made them ineligible for release from custody. In each case, the ILPC students marshalled evidence, submitting volumes of documentation in support of their bond applications; briefed complicated questions of statutory, regulatory, and constitutional law; and argued successfully in immigration court for the release of our clients.
ILPC students (l-r) Nathaniel Mortensen, Lindsey Idelberg, and Kristi Englekirk outside the Denver Contract Detention Facility upon the release of their clients in a case not described here.
The ILPC provides broad exposure to immigration practice in the existing Denver Law clinical model, in which the students are the attorneys and are fully responsible for the representation of the ILPC’s clients. In addition to their work representing individual detained clients, ILPC students are partnering with organizations and individuals to pursue various immigration policy research and advocacy projects.