This past fall, Immigrant Rights clinician Inna Vernikov filed the clinic’s very first application under the Obama administration’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The application was filed on behalf of a local 15 years old high school student who had been in the United States since she was 2 years old.
This new immigration benefit allows certain young undocumented individuals who entered the United States as children, who are in school, have a high school Diploma (or GED) or served in the US armed forces to remain in the United States for a period of two years (subject to renewal). Applicants for this benefit also cannot have a significant criminal history. Most individuals who are approved for DACA will also be authorized to work in the US during the authorized period.
Inna worked dilligently on this case in the fall semester. Her hard work was remarkable. This case involved a new form of relief that required extensive research and creativity. It involved figuring out what types of evidence and documents would demonstrate that the client had in fact been in the US continuously for all these years (an onerous task) and also that the client met other DACA requirements. The student’s dedication to the client’s case is very commendable.
This year’s Citizenship Day held on Saturday April 14th attracted a record number of applicants from the Jacksonville community. The Citizenship Skills Lab with the help of student clinicians in the Immigration Rights Clinic planned, set up and successfully held this annual event initiated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”).
Volunteering at the event this year were 40 attorneys from the Jacksonville area, students from Professor Kara Roberts’ Citizenship Skills Lab, 15 clinicians from the Immigrant Rights Clinic, 35 other law students, and 12 interpreters from a local non-profit organization. Students as well as attorneys were dedicated to the cause and to making this event a success. Prior to the event student clinicians helped the Citizenship skills lab conduct pre-screens of interested members of the community. This helped filter out candidates with more complex issues who may not be a good fit for Citizenship Day, also allowing things to move more swiftly on the day of the event. Some students and faculty dedicated their entire day to the event, starting as early as 8 AM and leaving the event well after 6 PM. The stories from the community were diverse and heartwarming. It means so much to these individuals that with the help of FCSL students they were able to take the final step on the path of becoming American citizens.
Students were able to assist 100 people from the Jacksonville community file their citizenship applications. Several other individuals whose applications needed more attention are being referred to local attorneys for pro bono representation. The applicants who attended were from various countries. Some of the countries represented at the event were: Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Panama, Liberia, Costa Rica, and a few European countries.
The community came out in great number and expressed gratitude for this life changing event put on by Florida Coastal School of Law.
Immigrant Rights Clinic student Anshul Krishn presenting at last month's Interpreter Training
Last month Immigration Rights Clinic students Shavae McKnight and Anshul Krishn organized and conducted an interpreter training event for students. The event which drew quite a large crowd, was attended by bilingual students interested in volunteering their time to help student clinicians communicate with their non-English speaking clients. This is significant since the clinics depend on student volunteers for interpreting. The training also attracted students who are not bilingual but recognize the need for interpreters in our growing multicultural society, as well as the importance of accurate communication in legal representation. Also stressed in the presentation were possible ethical duties involved in using interpreters in legal practice as well as the rules of professional responsibility triggered by its use.
Thanks to the training, the clinical program was able to expand its interpreter database significantly. It garnered interpreters in a wide range of languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Turkish, French, Polish , Urdu, Farsi and a few other languages.