UConn Law’s Immigration Detention and DACA Clinic

By Davy Wang

This spring semester, Professor Anna Cabot and Professor Jon Bauer established the Immigration Detention and DACA Clinic (IDD Clinic) at UConn Law in response to several problems in immigration law and policies.

In 2016, more than 350,000 people were held in immigration detention in the United States. This constitutes the world’s highest number of incarcerated non-citizens in a single country.

The release rates are low and many are deported. Language barriers and the complexity of legal rules put detainees in unfavorable positions. Further, there is a shortage of immigration lawyers. Detainees face the threat of deportation, including permanent separation from their family.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) allowed many people who came to the United States as children to receive a renewable two-year grant of protection against removal and a work permit. The U.S. government decided to repeal the program in September 2017. Approximately 800,000 people would be affected by this decision. In January 2018, three federal district courts issued injunctions against the repeal. The last ruling ordered the government to resume accepting new applications for DACA, but the judge stayed his ruling for 90 days to give the Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to provide a more solid explanation for canceling the program.

In the IDD Clinic, students work in pairs to aid clients that are in detention or were previously protected under DACA. Students assigned to assist clients in detention gather relevant facts in order to represent their clients in subsequent bond hearings. Being able to secure a release from detention puts an immigrant in a much better position to seek different kinds of relief from deportation.

In DACA cases, the students main task is to figure out if the client is eligible for any relief under immigration law in order to increase their chance of staying in the United States. The forms of relief can range from a U.S. citizen spouse-sponsored visa to an application for asylum. The clinic also helps people to file their DACA renewal.

Over spring break, UConn Law students also had the opportunity to participate in the annual trip to Pennsylvania where they assisted asylum applicants who are detained in the York County Prison. In the near future, they may also have the chance to support asylum seekers incarcerated in the family detention center in Dilley, Texas. This facility was opened in 2014 for the purpose of detaining mainly women and children from Central America.

Taylor Faranda is one of the students participating in the clinic and currently works on DACA cases. Her interest in immigration law started while she stayed abroad in Central America and witnessed the many reasons people had to leave their own countries and come to the United States first handed. She really likes the problem-solving part of the clinic, where she, in cooperation with her partner, has to figure out if there are any other options for her client to stay in the United States. Sometimes there aren’t any, and it is not easy to break the bad news to them. But she has noticed that even if you weren’t able to find a solution, they are still really happy about you listening to their story and using your time and energy to help them.

This clinic is a highly valuable resource for people who encounter challenges under U.S. immigration policies. The ACLU and few other local organizations are also engaging in finding pro bono lawyers or other help. However, despite all the work that is currently being done, there is still an urgent need for more support.

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