FIU students and professors are assisting newly arrived immigrant children, who are currently in the custody of federal immigration authorities, to apply for immigration relief.
Once a week, 40 children who are currently living in shelters throughout South Florida, visit FIU Law’s Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic for in-depth screening and preparation session.
In the last year, thousands of unaccompanied children have arrived through the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 and 80,000 children will arrive this year alone.
For many years, FIU College of Law’s Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic has partnered with Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) to assist unaccompanied minors who come to Florida. Mary Gundrum, who directs the Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic supervises law students in both the Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic and the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, who represent children in court seeking to have them declared dependent in juvenile court so they can then apply for special immigrant juvenile status or asylum.
The Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic is part of FIU Law’s experiential learning program which gives second and third year law students the opportunity to earn law school credit while exposing students to client transactional work, advocacy and litigation in a supervised setting.
“Applying what the law students learn in the classroom to real life is a valuable component to the FIU Law school experience” said Professor Juan Carlos Gomez, director of the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic.
The clinic is seeking current law students who speak Spanish to assist in the process as well as FIU students who can serves as interpreters. Under the guidance of clinical staff, law students interview children to help determine if they have been abused, neglected or abandoned, criteria that would make them eligible for asylum.
“FIU students can provide needed support for unaccompanied minors arriving in South Florida by making sure that we spot potential cases for immigration relief for arriving minors,” Gundrum said. “By doing this, we will make a difference in assuring that children are not returned to violent homes or communities when they have legitimate Special Immigrant Juveniles, asylum or trafficking claims under present law.”
In addition, AIJ and FIU are also looking for Spanish-speaking student volunteers to conduct screenings at immigration courts across South Florida and at the AIJ on Monday and Thursday afternoons.
“The work we do in the FIU College of Law’s Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic is extremely rewarding. The majority of the kids we see have been abused, abandoned and/or neglected by their families. For me, to advocate on behalf of these children so that they’re not returned to such abusive and hostile environments, is truly fulfilling,” said FIU Law student, Maritza Haro. “It’s important for other students to get involved in this cause so that no child is returned to an abusive and hostile environment.”
If you are interested in volunteering, contact director Mary Gundrum at firstname.lastname@example.org.