2015 was a busy year for The Clinic. At the start of 2016, The Clinic has 136 active, open files. Of these 136 files, 76 cases were opened in 2015 with representation including 95 men and 41 women. The highest represented country was Mexico.
It is clear that The Clinic’s mission of filling the gap in competent representation for indigent individuals facing removal proceedings in the Kansas City Immigration Court is being fulfilled. Over the life of The Clinic, individuals from 32 different countries have been helped. And even with limited funding, The Clinic has handled a total of 50 pro-bono cases; 15 files remain open currently.
Recognizing the gap in services, and faced with an influx of Central American crisis cases, The Clinic began to take on asylum cases in approximately March 2015. 61 asylum cases are currently active, with a large number of them involving unaccompanied minors (UAC).
Since The Clinic has only one dedicated attorney and one dedicated staff person, a dire need existed for some backup help. This help came not in the form of funding, but instead the helpful hand of partnership. The attorneys at Dentons, stepped up to help children facing removal and seeking asylum with their interviews in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) Asylum Office. This most welcomed assistance helped The Clinic continue to provide representation in Immigration Court as well as ensure that they had representation during the USCIS process.
The Clinic had many victories in 2015. From bond hearings to complicated legal issues, The Clinic continued to show that where there is a will, there is a way. Clinic attorney, Genevra Alberti, together with Clinic Assistant, Jennifer Rodriguez, worked nonstop in 2015 to preserve the dreams of dozens of families. These families included, in part:
- J.D. was successful in obtaining residency by winning his case for cancellation of removal. The Judge agreed to grant relief once more visas become available, hopefully by October.
- P.E was originally denied a bond, and was set for a detained trial on his application for cancellation of removal and asylum. The Clinic appealed the IJ’s denial of bond to the Board of Immigration Appeals and the case was remanded to the IJ for a new bond hearing. Client was granted bond and is now out of custody and with his family awaiting trial.
- O.G. – An exercise of prosecutorial discretion was sought for the client. DHS agreed. Removal proceedings are now administratively closed and the client remains with the family.
- M.V. – Applied for Adjustment of Status to obtain his residency. It was recently granted after a very brief trial.
More resources would mean more help to those in need. As The Clinic turns the corner on its fifth year, it is still without sufficient funding to sustain all of its costs.
Additional resources would allow The Clinic to devote more effort to investigating detention issues.
Access to counsel remains a huge issue for those individuals detained by ICE in local jails. It would also become possible to resume the Know Your Rights presentations that are essential to the detained population. It is this lack of access to information and knowledge of rights that is the root of immigration abuses.
There are also many cases The Clinic handles that have a USCIS component – e.g. UAC asylum applicants, Family-based petitions, SIJS, and I-751 interviews; with the exception of asylum interviews, the firm has been handling the interviews for The Clinic. With more resources, The Clinic would be able to handle the interviews without outside assistance through the expansion of staff.
Finally, with limited exception, The Clinic is unable to handle appeals of final IJ decisions for clients. Many Clinic clients do not have enough money to afford private counsel for appeals and do not have the education or other resources that would enable them to try to file a pro se appeal. Since appeals are often the only way to undo an incorrect ruling, the inability of an indigent client to be able to seek review because of financial limitations leaves yet another gap in need of filling. With adequate funding, The Clinic could help even more families stay together by ensuring appellate rights were also preserved. Perhaps 2016 will be the year that provides this economic stability and growth to The Clinic.