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Cases and Projects* -- Academic Year 2012-2013

American Bar Association Commission on Immigration

The American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration (Commission) directs the Association's efforts to ensure fair treatment and full due process rights for immigrants and refugees within the United States. Guided by resolutions adopted by the ABA House of Delegates, the Commission works to coordinate and strengthen the ABA's response to legal developments and to address the needs of immigrants and newcomers. Among the Commission's greatest concerns are safeguarding due process, the growing reliance on detention, and the lack of access to legal information and counsel for individuals in immigration proceedings, particularly unaccompanied immigrant children. The ABA Board of Governors has designated immigration to be a legislative priority of the ABA in each Congress since 1992.

The Notice to Appear (NTA) is the charging document used by the Department of Homeland Security to identify people who are inside the United States and potentially in violation of the immigration laws. When the NTA is filed with the immigration court, the individual is placed in removal proceedings at which an immigration judge will determine whether or not the noncitizen is removable as charged, qualifies for relief and/or is subject to deportation (removal). Each time DHS makes a decision to file an NTA, it places enormous resource constraints on the immigration system and raises important humanitarian questions about whether the NTA should be filed in the first place. An agency decision to refrain from filing a legally sufficient NTA for economic and humanitarian reasons is one of the most important forms of prosecutorial discretion, yet it remains largely unexamined.

On behalf of the Commission students at the Center studied the rate and circumstances surrounding Notice to Appear (NTA) filings at the immigration court. To reach this end, students at the Center solicited information from attorneys, advocates, and the immigration agency about the decisions made by ICE to file an NTA with the immigration court, and analyzed the information it received. Students also researched the primary sources, secondary sources and related literature on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law.

Learning Goals: Legal research and analysis, objective and persuasive writing, communication, relationship building with attorneys, reflective lawyering, professional judgment, interviewing, problem solving, and collaboration.



Centre County Women's Resource Center

The Centre County Women’s Resource Center’s (CCWRC), Civil Legal Representation Project (CLRP) provides legal representation to survivors of domestic violence in family law matters. Survivors of domestic violence often fear leaving their abusers because of concerns about custody of their children and child support. When they do leave, survivors are often faced with the daunting prospect of navigating the legal system without representation. Some abusers use the legal system against their victims after they leave an abusive relationship as a way of continuing to seek control over their victims. The CLRP staff understands the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual abuse and how those dynamics affect survivors in the family law system and is committed to working with clients so that they have the information and legal assistance they need to help achieve and maintain independence from their abusers.

The CLRP is a project of Centre County Women’s Resource Center, a non-profit organization located in State College, PA that provides a range of services to victims including a 24 hour crisis hotline, crisis counseling, emergency shelter, transitional housing, advocacy, support groups, family law legal services, and referrals to other appropriate community programs. CCWRC is a leading voice for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in the Central Pennsylvania region and provides advocacy and education on topics related to domestic and sexual abuse in the community.

On behalf of CCWRC/CLRP, Penn State Law's Center for Immigrants' Rights developed a community education plan to inform community members about legal remedies and services available to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes residing in Centre County and surrounding counties in central Pennsylvania. To reach this end, the Center reviewed and researched related legal standards, treatises, and related materials and created fact sheets and accessible materials on the U visa, T visa, VAWA self-petitions and prosecutorial discretion for victims. Students hosted community events to educate area residents about immigration remedies for victims of domestic violence and abuse and the services provided by the CCWRC’s CLRP to immigrant victims of domestic violence.

Learning Goals: Legal research and analysis, objective and persuasive writing, public speaking, multi-dimensional lawyering, empathy, professional judgment, problem solving, leadership, collaboration and how to use legal knowledge to empower people and communities.



Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) is a non-profit legal services organization founded in 1996 in the aftermath of the Golden Venture grounding. The Golden Venture ship beached off the coast of Long Island with nearly three hundred Chinese refugees aboard who were fleeing persecution in the forms of forced sterilization and abortion. Consequent to immigration policies that mandate the detention of some asylum seekers, many Golden Venture refugees were detained at York County Prison in York, Pennsylvania, by the current Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

At present, DHS detains approximately 1,600 immigrants in Pennsylvania at eleven county prisons, two federal facilities, and a secure family shelter in Berks County. These facilities are predominately located in rural counties in Pennsylvania, with a scarcity of immigration attorneys and immigrant communities. Consequently, most immigration detainees have little or no access to legal, social service, or community support. Located less than a mile from York County Prison, PIRC has become the leading source of legal services to immigrants detained by DHS in Pennsylvania. York County Prison houses approximately 700 detainees on a daily basis. The annex at York County Prison includes a branch of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Court), presided over by two full-time Immigration Judges and a rotating Judge to assist with backlogs.

On behalf of PIRC, students at the Center conducted workshops for educating the Centre County region and its vicinity about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). To reach this goal, students reviewed the agency guidance, policies and materials produced by law school clinics, the private bar and advocacy organizations about DACA. As practicable, students interviewed attorneys and advocates around the country about “best practices” for conducting community events on DACA. As needed, students created fact sheets and accessible materials on DACA.

Learning Goals: Legal research and analysis, objective and persuasive writing, public speaking, multi-dimensional lawyering, empathy, professional judgment, problem solving, leadership, and collaboration, and how to use legal knowledge to empower people and communities.

* Note: Clients have given special permission for information contained in this document to be shared publicly.