Immigrant Rights Clinic
The Immigrant Rights Clinic represents individuals and organizations on critical issues affecting low-income immigrants in the region. Students work under the close supervision of experienced clinical faculty to provide pro bono resources on a range of legal issues, from detention and deportation matters to workplace exploitation and the protection of civil and constitutional rights of immigrants.
Clinic students litigate on behalf of clients in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies. They develop traditional lawyering skills, such as client interviewing and counseling, fact investigation, legal drafting and trial presentation. In addition, modern legal practice demands problem-solving methods beyond those skills. Immigrant communities targeted by aggressive law enforcement initiatives have been sites of innovative social and political organizing. The Clinic supports that work by partnering with organizations to conduct community education and advance policy reform campaigns. Through rigorous, structured reflection, students distill lessons about legal practice from their fieldwork.
“In the Immigrant Rights Clinic, suddenly all the law I had been learning had a new meaning and a new purpose: helping our client. It completely changed the way I interpreted the rules and principles I was learning; instead of asking only, ‘What do the rules mean?’ I had to ask myself, ‘What do they mean for our client?’ The law was no longer an intellectual exercise but a matter of life and death. My clinic client has remained with me as a constant reminder of the law’s potential for justice and injustice for each individual, and is a constant reminder of why I became a lawyer.”
Alisa Hartz ’12, Attorney, Public Counsel, Los Angeles
Support to Strengthen Immigrant Communities
In recent semesters, Clinic students have engaged in creative legal advocacy to help clients achieve their goals, including:
- Representing immigrants detained at the Adelanto Detention Center in bond hearings
- Drafting U-visa applications for exploited day laborers
- Winning back wages owed to hotel cleaning staff in Long Beach and Los Angeles
- Defending children referred to federal immigration authorities by Orange County
- Publishing a widely cited report on the harmful effects of Orange County referring children to immigration authorities
- Providing assistance to the Orange County Alternate Defender’s Office on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions
- Filing a federal suit in Maricopa County, Arizona, to challenge the criminalization of immigrant workers
- Litigating on behalf of warehouse workers against exploitative employers in the Inland Empire
- Documenting detention conditions for Trans immigrant detainees at Santa Ana Jail
- Advocating on behalf individuals and families affected by the imposition of gang injunctions in Orange County
- Organizing legal clinics with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center and the Orange County DREAM Team
- Policy report on gang databases and immigration: Mislabeled: Allegations of Gang Membership and Their Immigration Consequences (PDF)
- Policy report on juvenile referrals to ICE: Second Chances for All: Why Orange County Probation Should Stop Choosing Deportation Over Rehabilitation for Immigrant Youth (PDF)
Read our press advisory >
- White paper on Secure Communities: MISPLACED PRIORITIES: The Failure of Secure Communities in Los Angeles County (PDF)
- Complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief: Puente Arizona v. Arpaio (PDF)
Read the press advisory >
All students handle at least one litigation case and one non-litigation advocacy project. Students work in teams of two or three on all clinic projects. With the permission of the presiding judicial or administrative officer, students serve as the primary legal representative for their clients in all hearings before state and federal courts and agencies.
Foundational Lawyering Skills: Students interview clients, undertake fact investigations, disentangle procedural rules, draft complaints and legal briefs, conduct direct and cross-examinations, and negotiate with opposing parties. Through both intense individual immersion and collaborative learning across clinic teams, students are assured of exposure to a range of skills and knowledge bases.
Participatory Litigation: IRC contextualizes traditional legal skills in a participatory framework and students work with clients as collaboratively as possible.
Policy Advocacy: Modern legal practice requires basic policy advocacy skills, such as knowledge of legislative drafting, framing techniques, grassroots lobbying methodologies, and media advocacy, to complement litigation expertise.
Know Your Rights and Community Education: Students engage in know-your-rights and community education programs, especially ones constructed to be sustained by our community-based collaborators.
Lawyers and Client Mobilization: Students work with community-based organizers because lawyering alone does not advance justice. Through these collaborations, students explore the strategic and ethical challenges posed by a mode of practice that aims to mobilize clients, in addition to asserting legal rights and defenses on their behalf.
Strategic Judgment: As lead counsel on multi-modal advocacy projects, students participate and contribute to the development of social and economic justice campaigns on behalf of individuals and organizations.
In the News
- Efforts by Immigrant Rights Clinic student Sean Garcia-Leys to assist undocumented teen featured in story – Voice of OC
- UCI Law students’ work with Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center worker’s clinic highlighted (PDF) – Daily Journal
- Prof. Lai is quoted re: 9th circuit ruling on bond hearings for detained immigrants – Los Angeles Times
- Immigrant Rights Clinic report, Profs. Ashar and Lai quoted in part 2 of series on undocumented teens – Voice of OC
- Prof. Ashar quoted re: problem of “employee” vs. “independent contractor” misclassification of workers – Al Jazeera America
- Immigrant Rights Clinic plays key role in Arpaio case, Prof. Lai quoted – The Daily Pilot/ Los Angeles Times
- Immigrant Rights Clinic’s Amelia Alvarez, Fawn Bekam, and Prof. Ashar quoted re: impact of gang injunctions on undocumented immigrants – Al Jazeera America
- Immigrant Rights Clinic on legal team for workers seeking to stop Arpaio workplace raids – AZ Central
- Alumna Leah Gasser-Ordaz (’14) quoted in news coverage of lawsuit against AZ Sheriff Arpaio – BuzzFeed
- Immigrant Rights Clinic report helps end ICE holds on juveniles – Orange County Register
- Immigrant Rights Clinic partnership with RAIZ group noted – Orange County Register
- IRC’s Prof. Lai, Kelsey Galanter (’15) and James Buatti (’14) score win in teen’s residency case – San Francisco Chronicle
- Immigrant Rights Clinic’s Jessica Karp comments on federal immigration policy – The Washington Post
- Immigrant Rights Clinic 3L James Buatti explains impact of juvenile deportations – Voice of OC
- Coverage of Immigrant Rights Clinic’s report on juvenile deportation – Los Angeles Times
- Immigrant Rights Clinic report: O.C. leads state in child deportations (PDF) – Orange County Register
- Immigrant Rights Clinic: Probation officials referring minors to federal authorities – AP/SF Chronicle
- UCI’s Immigrant Rights Clinic sues over deportation program – Inter Press Service
- “Celebration Planned for Jose Ucelo, Day Laborer Done Wrong!” – OC Weekly
- Professor Ashar on including labor investigations in law clinic (PDF) – Daily Journal
- Immigrant Rights Clinic helps settle hotel workers’ dispute – Mercury News
IRC students helped 18 Long Beach hotel employees reach a $130,000 settlement with HEI Hotels and Resorts over denial of meal and rest breaks required by state law. The settlement arose from claims the employees filed with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Students Brian Olney (’13) and Angel Camino (’13) handled the settlement negotiations, and for the litigation, students Ari Yampolsky (’12) represented the hotel workers in the first set of hearings in April 2012, and David Rodwin and Emma Soichet (both ’12) came back after graduation to handle hearings for clients. Also instrumental in the case were Acrivi Coromelas, Sam Lam, David Koch and Irina Trasovan (all ’12), and the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.
- Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown: Dean Chemerinsky cites clinic’s work in urging Governor to sign AB 108
- “Lawsuit: Day Laborer Faces Deportation after Anaheim Employer Filed False Police Report” – OC Weekly
- Exploring the human toll of a misguided policy: Immigration Rights Clinic students say Secure Communities program could lead to racial profiling – UC Irvine feature
- “The Dangerous Failings of Secure Communities in Los Angeles” (PDF) – Daily Journal Opinion