Maine Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic Receives $500K Grant

Clinical Professor Anna WelchOne of the only programs in Maine offering legal assistance to refugees and immigrants has received a $500,000 grant that will help it continue its mission over the next four years.

The Refugee and Human Rights Clinic, a program of the University of Maine School of Law, received the grant from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation. The support comes at a time  when requests for legal help are on the rise.

“The need for legal aid for Maine’s immigrants is high,” said Clinical Professor Anna Welch, who oversees the clinic. “Many of our clients have been subjected to abuse, persecution, and torture in their home countries. They need help with asylum claims, work permits, and many other humanitarian matters. Without a lawyer they have little chance at winning their cases.”

“There is a real sense of urgency, especially in this political environment, with the ongoing debates about refugees and immigrants and their future in America,” Welch said.

The legal work at the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic is done by Maine Law students under the supervision of Welch and other Law School faculty members. The mission is to train future lawyers in a growing and dynamic area of law, while upholding Maine Law’s commitment to public service.

Since it launched in the fall of 2012, the clinic has provided direct legal assistance to dozens of asylum seekers, unaccompanied immigrant children, and other immigrants seeking humanitarian relief in Maine.

The clinic also has helped hundreds more through the publication of its “How to Apply for Asylum” manual, co-authored with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; trainings and ‘Know-Your-Rights’ presentations with asylum seekers, immigrant youth and others at Hope Gateway, Preble Street Teen Center, Sacred Heart; and other community outreach efforts.

The grant from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation will fund Welch’s position over the next four years. She will serve as the Sam L. Cohen Refugee and Human Rights Clinical Professor. The foundation has been the primary community supporter of the clinic.

“We’re grateful for the ongoing support of the Cohen Foundation, which has been crucial to the development of the RHRC,” said Dean Danielle Conway. “For a law school that is committed to delivering justice and preparing graduates to make a positive difference in their communities, the clinic is at the very heart of our mission.”