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December 22, 2017

UMaine Law students gain immigration law experience at federal detention center in Laredo

Courtesy / University of Maine School of Law
Courtesy / University of Maine School of Law
Anna Welch, left, the Sam L. Cohen Refugee and Human Rights Clinical professor at the University of Maine School of Law, is overseeing Nora Bosworth, right, and nine other students from the law school who are getting hands-on immigration law experience at a federal detention center in Laredo, Texas.

Students from the University of Maine School of Law are getting hands-on immigration law experience at a federal detention center in Laredo, Texas, where they are providing volunteer assistance to immigrant and refugee women.

A total of 10 students enrolled in MaineLaw's Refugee and Human Rights Clinic are participating. Several have already made the trip to Texas, while others are scheduled to go within the next month.

The students spend a week volunteering with attorneys and staff at the Laredo Project, a collaboration between the law firm Jones Day and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

At the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Facility in Laredo, students are conducting intake interviews, reviewing cases and filing motions for relief, such as emergency stays on deportation orders, building on their experience as student attorneys at MaineLaw's Refugee and Human Rights Clinic.

Students in the clinic are trained in all facets of immigration law and lawyering, and represent real clients in asylum and other humanitarian-based petitions, under the guidance of Anna Welch, Sam L. Cohen Refugee and Human Rights Clinical professor.

"Working with the Laredo Project, our students are able to take the skills they've learned in the classroom and through their cases here in Maine, and put them to good use for the women who are being detained in Texas," Welch said in a statement. "The effort reflects the clinic's dual mission of training future lawyers while engaging in public service."

UMaine Law students involved in the project are: Joann Bautista, Eric Benson, Nora Bosworth, Katie Bressler, Sara Cressey, Greta Lozada, Hanni Pastinen, Christiana Rein, Noel Sidorek and Jeremy Williams.

Nora Bosworth, who traveled to Laredo in July and plans to return for a second week of service, found the experience to be invaluable.

"The women's stories varied widely, from harrowing stories of trauma and persecution, to more routine accounts of mothers who have been living or working in the U.S. for years and were apprehended by ICE," she said.

UMaine Law noted that arrests of undocumented immigrants and immigrants whose legal status is unclear have soared under the Trump administration, with ICE making 110,568 arrests between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30. That's a 42% increase over the same period in 2016.

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