Immigration Law Clinic

Southwestern students may find the clinic application and other details on the MySWLAW portal (log-in required). See Sample Law Student Application (for reference only) in sidebar.

Southwestern's Immigration Law Clinic provides free legal representation to low-income children and adults in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) (clients under the age of 21), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U visa cases. The Clinic is staffed by law students who represent clients under the supervision of Professors Andrea Ramos and Julia Vázquez. Throughout the class, students will learn many facets of professional responsibility such as client confidentiality, responsiveness to client demands and accountability for their work.

"By working with real clients in real cases, students will learn to appreciate the value of public service and the importance of access to justice for low-income clients and underserved communities.

~Professor Andrea Ramos - Director of the Immigration Law Clinic

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

SIJS is a way for certain undocumented children to obtain lawful permanent resident status (a green card). A child may be eligible for SIJS if she is under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court, placed in the custody of a state agency or department, or placed in the custody of an individual (e.g. a guardian), and whose reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law. The juvenile court must determine that it is in the minor's best interest to remain in the United States and not be returned to her home country. The child must be under the age of 21 (at the time the application is filed) and not married. There are additional requirements.*

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

VAWA allows certain immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and are the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR/green card holder), or abused parent of a USC son or daughter (21 or over) to self-petition for lawful immigration status. The VAWA applicant must have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the USC spouse, parent, or son or daughter, or the LPR spouse or parent. There are additional requirements.

U Visa Programs

The U visa is available to non-citizens who suffer substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of certain criminal activity. To be eligible for a U visa, the victim must possess information concerning the criminal activity and be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The victim must obtain a certification from a "certifying agency" certifying his helpfulness in the investigation or prosecution. The crime must be a violation of a law of the United States or occurred in the United States. There are additional requirements.*

The Clinic is a semester course; it is five units and graded (20% of the grade will be based on class attendance and participation in classroom discussion and 80% of the grade will be based on performance on casework and community work, including relationship with clients, lawyering, research and writing and office management).

*NOTE: This page is for informational purposes only. Please be sure to consult with an attorney for an assessment of legal options.

Immigration Law Clinic

The Immigration Law Clinic is a five unit semester course and is graded. There are no course prerequisites and no final examination. Interested students must submit an Immigration Law Clinic application and resume to Professor Andrea Ramos. Enrollment in the Clinic is limited.

Law students, working under the supervision of Professor Ramos, will represent children and adults in immigration matters. The Clinic will provide free legal representation to clients in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) (clients under the age of 21), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U visa cases. This will involve cases where clients have been abused, neglected or abandoned or have been victims of a crime. Students will represent clients before the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and possibly before the Immigration Court and Juvenile Court. Students will be primarily responsible for their cases, including interviewing potential clients, developing case strategy, preparing immigration applications and presenting cases before the USCIS.

The Clinic will also include a community outreach component where students will give presentations on immigration related topics such as immigrant student access to higher education and know-your-rights informational sessions. Following the presentation, students will hold a community clinic where attendees can ask questions about their particular immigration situation. If the person is eligible for SIJS, VAWA or the U visa, the Immigration Clinic will offer free legal representation.

The Clinic will meet one day per week for a two hour class. The classroom component will focus on substantive and procedural law, professional responsibility and development of advocacy skills. Students will work approximately twenty hours per week on Clinic activities and must be flexible with the hour requirement in order to be responsive to client and case demands.

  1. Immigration Law Clinic - FAQs

    Q: What are the student casework responsibilities?

    A:  Students will be primarily responsible for their cases from beginning to end. During the case intake stage, they will conduct in-depth interviews of the potential clients and learn effective techniques for interviewing and counseling.

    Once representation begins, students will apply the facts to the law and assess possible legal options. They will participate in case strategy discussions and prepare their case for filing with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as sharpen their writing skills and learn the importance of attention to detail in completing immigration applications.

    Q: What are the hour requirements for students working in the Clinic?

    A: Students are expected to work about 17 hours per week at the Clinic. This includes two hours of classroom time, case supervision, client work, community work and other Clinic duties. Students are required to have regular office hours at the Clinic and must be available for community outreach work one day per semester.

    Students with extensive job or externship responsibilities with inflexible work schedules will need special permission by the Clinic Professor to enroll in the clinic. Because the weekly hour requirement may vary due to case demands, students must have flexible schedules. They are expected to work the necessary hours to complete their case assignments - which may involve evenings, weekends or holidays. Students must be willing to travel to local social service agencies and high schools to meet the community outreach requirement.

    Q: What is the community outreach component?

    A: Clinic students will give presentations on immigration-related issues to social service providers and community groups. Students will create the presentations and materials, and offer an opportunity to ask questions about their particular immigration situation.

    Q: How are cases referred to the Clinic?

    A: Cases are referred to the Immigration Law Clinic from non-profit organizations and social service providers. Individuals may call the Immigration Law Clinic Intake Line at (213) 738-5574 for a case intake screening.

    Q: What are the eligibility requirements?

    A: To be eligible for the Clinic, students must be in good academic standing and have completed their first year of study. The Immigration Clinic does not require prerequisite courses, but does recommend Immigration Law, Evidence, Children and the Law, and Legal Profession prior to or concurrent with enrollment.

    Q: How do students apply for the Clinic?

    A: Interested students must submit an Immigration Law Clinic application and resume to Professor Andrea Ramos. The Clinic will give preference to third- and fourth-year students who have not had prior in-house clinic experience and to students with immigration, public interest and other work or volunteer experience. Fluency in a relevant language other than English is preferred, but not required. Selection will not be based on academic rank.

    Q: When does the class meet?

    A: The class meets on Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. The classroom component will focus on substantive and procedural law, professional responsibility and development of advocacy skills.