DePaul law clinic aids Chicago immigrants

A young mother from Mexico, hoping to improve her life in Chicago, sought help from the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic​ at DePaul University. She was looking for advice on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — the federal process known as DACA, which was recently renewed.

In the news these past few months, DACA outlines the process for those who came to the United States as children without legal status and want to remain in the country. The law clinic guided the young mother through the application process and helped organize her documents so she could achieve deferred action and gain legal employment. The clinic's team of lawyers and law students worked to ensure their client would have the opportunity to help her family.

"The clinic has successfully advocated in a number of cases including ultimately obtaining citizenship and lawful permanent residence for immigrants who were initially wrongfully denied," said attorney Sioban Albiol, an instructor at the clinic who also directs its Legal Resources Project.

"We think that our resources, and we, DePaul, can make a difference," Albiol said. She noted that the young mother from Mexico was able to find a job, go to school and give her children a better life. "She has been able to come out of the shadows and more fully participate in her own life and her community."

The Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, which provides experiential learning for students in DePaul’s College of Law, serves a variety of clients.

"In addition to helping represent immigrants, the clinic's goal is to help future lawyers work on their skills by taking what they learn in the classroom and applying it to real life situations," Albiol explained. "And, at the same time, it provides the community with representation to vulnerable populations or low-income populations such as immigrants and asylum seekers.

"The common thread for our cases is that they all present a particular challenge, and they are all compelling," said Albiol. "The young mother from Mexico was able to get her driver’s license, a legal job and told us the process of working with us was life changing."

There are potentially drastic consequences for those who make a mistake in the deferred action application process, and legal representation can help ensure family reunification and protect clients from harm, said Albiol. The clinic helps immigrants and refugees by preparing defenses in deportation cases, filling out legal applications and gathering necessary documentation.

The clinic provides low-income clients with high-quality legal representation free of charge. Clients receive legal resources and advice as well as information and referrals for professional development and other services through a coordinated network of community-based organizations and their partners.

"The Legal Resources Project is unique in terms of leveraging university resources to improve legal services for immigrants across northern Illinois. Our special partnership and collaboration with community-based organizations gives us insight into the needs of immigrants and those seeking legal status, which allows us to better serve them," Albiol said.

The clinic trains law students by giving those who are interested in immigration law the opportunity to work in the clinic during the academic year and legally represent asylum seekers and immigrants.

"The asylum and immigration work is meaningful for our students; offering them the opportunity to improve their writing, research and oral advocacy skills," Albiol said.

Students have the opportunity to positively impact an immigrant's life and gain experience working with other professionals and organizations, including the Marjorie Kovler Center for treatment of survivors of torture in the Chicago neighborhood of Rogers Park. It is an opportunity for young lawyers to work with doctors, psychologists and torture survivors, Albiol said.

One recent case concerning torture involved a student activist from Togo who was arrested and detained by his government. He was represented by law students from the clinic and eventually was granted asylum by an immigration judge. Despite suffering from torture and having his studies interrupted, the student was allowed to come to the United States and live safely with his family members, Albiol said. “He now has the opportunity to pursue his dreams of completing the university education that he had started.”

This news release was produced by DePaul Media Relations. For more information, visit newsroom.depaul.edu.