In the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic, students serve as the attorneys assisting low-income immigrants through a broad range of cases and projects.The course targets a critical gap in access to justice – providing direct legal representation and broader advocacy to immigrants and refugees seeking political asylum and similar protections under federal law, while training future attorneys on how to best serve the legal needs of immigrants. Clients include, for example, asylum applicants who have fled human rights abuses in their home countries and are seeking refuge, immigrant survivors of domestic violence, and abandoned or abused children seeking legal status in the United States.
The Clinic enrolls approximately 6-8 students a semester who earn four to six credit hours upon successful completion of the course. Under faculty supervision, student attorneys develop their substantive knowledge of immigration law and human rights laws and norms while building core legal skills relevant to the general practice of law. Students receive close guidance throughout the course under the supervision of Founding Director and Clinical Professor Anna Welch, Staff Attorney Sara Cressey, and Adjunct Clinical Professor and Outreach and Advocacy Attorney Erica Schair-Cardona.
Clinical work for students includes: interviewing clients and witnesses and preparing testimony, working with interpreters and translators, conducting factual and legal investigation and marshaling of evidence, analyzing and presenting human rights documentation, developing case strategies, writing legal briefs, appearing in administrative and federal court proceedings, and participating in human rights advocacy projects. Students work with coalitions of lawyers to engage with immigrants being held in detention, at the Southern Border and on larger impact litigation. Additionally, more locally students have opportunities to collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and community groups on a range of advocacy projects directly benefiting new arrivals to Maine.