UHLC Immigration Clinic awarded grants to develop its outreach programs and better serve indigent immigrants

Recent grants allow UHLC Immigration Clinic to further help crime victims and unaccompanied alien children seeking asylum. Staff attorneys and law students in the Immigration Clinic participated in 18 outreaches this spring alone, assisting more than 700 individuals.

June 9, 2015 – The Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center received $12,500 in grants from the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the State Bar of Texas Immigration and Nationality Law Section to expand and enhance its pro-bono services.

The $7,500 grant from the Texas Chapter of AILA will supplement one staff salary and, in doing so, will expand the Immigration Clinic’s outreach program and allow the clinic to more fully serve the needs of the immigrant community.  The State Bar of Texas Immigration and Nationality Law Section awarded a $5,000 grant for interpreters and experts to provide psychological evaluations and country condition affidavits for indigent clients.

Though the Immigration Clinic is part of the UH Law Center, the salaries of its three staff attorneys/fellows are funded through grants. The clinic fellow who will benefit from AILA’s grant currently handles crime victim outreaches and can now help organize additional outreaches in the areas of unaccompanied alien children and complex asylum cases involving DACA clients.

The Immigration Clinic currently handles about 170 cases at any given time. Staff attorneys and clinic law students undertake applications for asylum, all types of complex family-based immigration cases, appeals, and federal court immigration-related cases.

Many of the asylum cases involve children who are fleeing gang violence and women who are victims of gender-based violence and fear returning to their home country. A large number of these individuals do not speak English and require interpreters to help with document translations, meetings with clinic students and staff attorneys, and, in some cases, to understand psychological evaluations that are essential to the client’s case. 

“In the past, we have had a limited number of experts who have done evaluations on a pro bono basis, but these experts are often unavailable or too few to meet our needs,” said Janet Heppard, director of the Clinical Legal Education Program.

Psychological evaluations help establish the effects of past persecution and the fear of future persecution as well as the credibility of clients seeking asylum. In crime victim cases, the evaluations may be necessary to show the severity of the harm suffered by the victim in order to meet the requirements under the U visa.

The State Bar of Texas’ funding will allow the Immigration Clinic greater access to experts who can explain to the court the dangers these individuals face in their home countries.

For more information about the Immigration Clinic, contact Immigration Clinic Director Geoffrey Hoffman at ghoffman@entral.uh.edu or Clinic Director Janet Heppard at jheppard@uh.edu.

For questions about giving to the Immigration Clinic, contact Program Manager Thelma Baines at tmbaines@central.uh.edu.

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