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Western State At A Glance
Learn more about our graduates, their careers and how they are helping to shape the future.
Through the Immigration Clinic at Western State, students have the opportunity to do exactly what lawyers do in practice – represent real clients in real matters. Throughout the process, students receive close guidance and supervision from the Clinic Director, Professor Jennifer Lee Koh, who formerly taught at the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic; Professor Sabrina Rivera, Clinic Staff Attorney; and Professor Andrew Knapp, whose nonprofit Immigrant Access to Justice Assistance routinely handles Ninth Circuit deportation appeals on a pro bono basis.
The Western State Immigration Clinic is a five-credit, one-semester course that provides students with hands-on skills training while responding to the pressing needs of immigrants in Orange County. Under faculty supervision, students represent immigrants who cannot otherwise afford legal representation before Citizenship and Immigration Services and in Immigration Court. In addition to their casework, students attend a weekly two-hour seminar focusing on lawyering skills and substantive immigration law.
Each student serves as his or her client’s primary representative. Under faculty supervision, the students interview the clients, investigate and gather facts, research the relevant law, draft briefs and affidavits, file applications for relief and supporting documentation, and represent clients in immigration interviews and in court. Since 2011, the Clinic has represented dozens of clients who have overcome experiences of domestic violence, human trafficking, persecution in their home countries, and sexual assault. The Clinic also collaborates with community-based organizations to protect and promote the rights of noncitizens in Orange County.
In 2016, the Immigration Clinic expanded to include representation before the prestigious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In its first year, Ninth Circuit Project students Alfonso Maldonado and Cristel Martinez briefed and argued their client’s case before the federal appeals court, resulting in a favorable decision in Beltran v. Sessions, __ Fed. Appx. __ , 2017 WL 1857293 (9th Cir. May 8, 2017). A video of their oral argument can be viewed here: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000011314.
The Clinic has taken a leading role in providing services to young people who came to the U.S. as children and has engaged in various community education efforts. As the primary advocates for their clients, students gain experience that translates into many areas of legal practice, including:
In June 2017, the Clinic released, “Protecting and Planning for Children: A Family Resource Guide for Orange County, CA Families at Risk of Deportation and Detention.” This resource guide, authored by Clinic students Nathalie Cedeno and Alizabeth Ramirez, is designed to provide information for immigrant families who wish to make arrangements for their children to remain in the U.S. in the event that they are subjected to immigration detention and deportation. The guide specifically discusses Caregiver Authorization Affidavits, powers of attorney, and guardianships in the State of California. The guide is available for download here.
"Law school classes teach you how to deconstruct and critically analyze issues. The Western State College of Law Immigration Clinic takes those skills and allows you the opportunity to apply them in a practical setting. The clinic, for me, has been the most rewarding and illuminating experience in law school. It allowed me the platform to help my community and, simultaneously, grow as a legal advocate. As a student attorney in the clinic, I worked on legal advocacy projects helping the immigrant community, I worked on case planning and management, I conducted client and witness interviews, I prepared court filings, I practiced my legal writing, and I successfully represented two clients, in two different matters, before Immigration Judges in Immigration court. I will forever be grateful for my experience and growth in the clinic."
“In the clinic, law was no longer this abstract concept I was reading from a book. I was given a client whose life was in my hands. She stood before me with tears in her eyes as she told me her story and her dreams of a better future. We were the key to completely transforming her life, and we had to figure out how to ensure that the law was on her side. Even when the odds were against us, we had to remain vigilant to ensure that our client got the justice she deserved. There is no greater feeling than having your client run into your arms, tears in her eyes, after being released from a six-month detention. As she clung to my arm with joy, I realized that this is what it’s all about: Ensuring that the goal of law is justice for those that would otherwise be lost. This moment will live with me forever, and will be the reminder of why I wanted to become an attorney.”
"Classrooms teach you the law and how think critically. The Clinic teaches you how to work compassionately with clients and about the impact you can have on your community."
"Western State's Immigration Clinic is a wonderful opportunity to practically apply immigration laws and hone critical thinking and writing skills while actually making a difference in the lives of non-citizens. The Clinic was the highlight of my law school experience, and through it I was able to meet amazing people, actually help an underserved population, and grow not only as a law student, but also as a person."
The Immigration Clinic students collectively reflect experience this semester on a wide range of immigration workRead More
The Immigration Clinic students collectively reflect experience this semester on a wide range of immigration work: bond hearings, detention work, asylum, U visas, adjustment of status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Violence Against Women Act self-petitioning, and defenses to deportation. They have worked on behalf of survivors of political persecution, rape, domestic violence, kidnapping, and sexual assault, and confronted the effects of racial profiling, drug addiction, gang violence, and immigration detention in their Clinic work this semester.
Western State Immigration Clinic and Western State University Law Review hosted a guest speaker panel to address the surge of migration from Central AmericaRead More
On October 22, 2014, the Western State Immigration Clinic and Western State University Law Review hosted a guest speaker panel to address the surge of migration from Central America that has taken place at the US-Mexico border since the summer of 2014.
The panel was comprised of Kris Jackson, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney at Public Counsel Law Center and adjunct professor at UCLA Law School; Cynthia Lucas, partner at Lucas & Barba and the past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Southern California Chapter, and Prof. Jennifer Lee Koh, Director of the Western State Immigration Clinic. The panel addressed a range of policy and legal issues, including the legal framework governing the treatment of unaccompanied minors; the rise of family detention; the right to counsel in the immigration system; and immigration courts' response to the surge in Central American migration.
The event was also co-sponsored by the Public Interest Law Foundation, Latino Student Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association Immigration Law Section, and American Immigration Lawyers Association Southern California Chapter.
On April 12, 2014, Immigration Clinic students Sonya Nevarez, Raul Saldana and Gloria Kim delivered a community education on immigration and notario fraud at the El Modena Family Resource CenterRead More
On April 12, 2014, Immigration Clinic students Sonya Nevarez, Raul Saldana and Gloria Kim delivered a community education on immigration and notario fraud at the El Modena Family Resource Center, a community-based social services organization located in Orange, California.
Sonya, Raul and Gloria researched the problem of immigration fraud, developed all of the presentation materials, gave the presentation and fielded questions from audience members.
"By working on this project, I developed an awareness of the dangers of notario fraud in immigrant communities, and also learned how I as a future lawyer can help prevent people from getting taken advantage of," said Sonya, a third year law student enrolled in the Clinic. " I also honed my oral presentation and advocacy skills."
As students in the Immigration Clinic, Sonya, Raul and Gloria have also been representing clients in efforts to seek political asylum (for survivors of persecution abroad) and U visas (for certain crime victims in the United States). In addition to individual presentation, Clinic students regularly engage in community education and advocacy work that seeks to advance the human rights of noncitizens in the area.
Sixteen Western State law students who have been studying immigration law traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border.Read More
Sixteen Western State law students who have been studying immigration law traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to witness firsthand the growth of border enforcement along the southern border.
"Participating in the border trip was an amazing opportunity that gave me unique insight into the agency and the realities of what we have been learning in the law school," stated Jossiel Moreira (’14), a Western State third year who is taking the survey Immigration Law class, and has represented several clients this year through the Immigration Clinic and Advanced Immigration Clinic.
The day-long trip, organized by Professor Jennifer Koh (who teaches immigration law and directs the law school’s on-site immigration clinic), also exposed students to multiple perspectives on border enforcement. First, in the morning, U.S. Border Patrol agents provided students with a guided tour of the U.S.-Mexico border near San Ysidro, California. Students rode in U.S. Border Patrol vans, walked along an "enforcement zone" (not accessible to the public) between border fence and the U.S.-Mexico border, and spoke extensively with Border Patrol agents about the challenges of monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border. Later that afternoon, students explored human rights critiques of current border policies through a visit with the founders of The Water Station, a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides water to migrants who risk death and dehydration when crossing the desert.
This spring, Western State announced the creation of an Immigration Law Certificate, which students may obtain through the completion of -- and success in -- a combination of required coursework, practical skills training, elective courses, and pro bono work.
Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama, third-year law students participating in the Advanced Immigration Clinic, each represented a client detained under the federal immigration laws.Read More
Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama, third-year law students participating in the Advanced Immigration Clinic, each represented a client detained under the federal immigration laws. Their efforts led to release or release on bond for their respective clients.
Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama represented their respective clients in November before the Los Angeles Immigration Court in bond hearings, to convince an Immigration Judge that the clients were neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Both students’ performances – which included direct examinations and closing arguments – produced amazing results for the clients: in Kris's case, her HIV+ client was released on an ankle bracelet and was released in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Angel's client was given a bond, which the family is working to meet it so that the client can come home to his wife and family. Both clients will continue to fight their deportations in immigration court, but the results of the bond hearings will enable them to do so while not being physically incarcerated in an immigration detention facility. Said Kris: "This was the best experience of my law school career." Angel stated "I never imagined being able to help people with their real cases while still in law school".
Both law students were supervised in these cases by Prof. Munmeeth Soni, staff attorney at the Public Law Center and Adjunct Professor in the Western State Immigration Clinic.