An Underserved Population

MSU Law’s Immigration clinic seeks to represent especially vulnerable populations such as unaccompanied children, victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, asylum seekers, and naturalization applicants with disabilities that otherwise could not afford legal representation in these complex immigration cases.

“We are here as a local resource for people who likely would not find representation otherwise,” said Professor Veronica Thronson. “We also serve as a national resource through training, research, and educational outreach.”

The clinic’s impact has expanded over the years, and it has become a special partner in the fight for the rights of unaccompanied children. In 2013, the Vera Institute of Justice requested that the clinic undertake a federal contract to represent all unaccompanied children in Office of Refugee Resettlement custody in Michigan and provide legal screening and orientation mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act to children in temporary care in Michigan.

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An Opportunity for Law Students 

“In some ways, these cases are perfect learning opportunities for students,” Thronson said.

“I improved my research and writing in an area of law in which I hope to practice,” said Reina Fostyk, ’18. “I also got to practice talking with clients, coordinating meetings, gathering info that was needed to build their case, and communicating the status of their cases and their options.”

At the clinic, students also learn that their advocacy can have a positive impact on the local community, and on the lives of the individuals they serve.

“We get to advocate for people who are facing severe injury or death in their home country,” said Abbie Carver, ’17. “We get to help children who have nowhere to go. We get to tell our families and classmates that our community is better because of our immigrant neighbors, and we dispel myths surrounding the current rhetoric.”

An Expanding Impact

In 2017, the clinic received a new grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help coordinate the national leadership and training for Protecting Immigrant Women and their Children from Violence and Family Separation, a project of the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Program at American University. The project aims to improve the health and well-being of children and families made vulnerable due to immigration status by strengthening judicial leadership and decision making and promoting improved collaborations between courts and community-based organizations that service immigrant families. 

This newest investment will help the clinic expand its mission to provide national educational outreach on special issues in immigration law while it continues to serve individual clients.