Law clinics improve community life, serve as teaching tool, Pt. 1

Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic

The Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic represents undocumented children and youth arriving in the United States without parents. All of the clinic’s cases are referrals from Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), a Miami-based nonprofit.

“We are generally very successful with our cases,” said Mary Gundrum, the clinic’s director and a visiting clinical assistant professor at the College of Law.

Gundrum’s team usually handles the dependency aspect of a case; AIJ sees to the immigration aspect. She recalls a case involving a 13-year-old Haitian boy who arrived in Miami four months after the 2010 earthquake. The young boy had never met his father and his mother died when he was 2. In Haiti, he lived with an abusive uncle who died in the earthquake.

“We successfully petitioned for him to become a dependent of the state while he was living in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shelter,” Gundrum said. “Together with AIJ, we worked on getting him special immigrant juvenile status and then a green card.”

Today – two years after the process began – that child’s case is closed, and he is still in Miami, living with his sister. “He’s thriving in school and very focused on his future,” she said.

Russian-born law student Natalia Deluca has worked on about 16 dependency cases at the clinic. She hopes to focus her practice on immigration after she graduates in 2013.

“I’m an immigrant and most of my friends are immigrants. This is what I want to do,” she said. “Working at the clinic at FIU Law has been great. I plan on volunteering with the clinic as I enter my last year of law school. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”

Check out the second part of this story, which focuses on the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights, the Investor Advocacy Cliic, the Health, Ethics, Law and Policy (H.E.L.P.) and the Community Development clinics.