From Immigration Clinic Director Michael Kagan:
We received official word today that the federal government will phase out the AmeriCorps initiative that has provided lawyers for thousands of unaccompanied children nationally. UNLV was one of the first seven national grantees when Attorney General Eric Holder started the program in 2014.
The end of this program is regrettable, but I want to be clear: Our work serving unaccompanied immigrant children in Nevada will continue. We have already begun transitioning from the AmeriCorps program to the new Edward M. Bernstein and Associates’ Children’s Rights Program, which we will formally launch this fall.
We have been honored to be part of the Justice AmeriCorps grant since its inception. It has allowed us to represent, so far, more than 120 children who have fled gruesome gang violence and family tragedies. Our youngest client right now is four years old. We have been successful in securing legal permission to remain safely in the United States for close to 50 of these children. Most of the rest have pending cases. All of these children would otherwise have been alone in Immigration Court, facing lawyers from the Department of Homeland Security and a complex body of law that bewilders many practicing attorneys.
Our formal AmeriCorps project will end October 31. But on November 1, we will continue representing immigrant children with as much dedication and creativity as ever. We can continue this work because Edward M. Bernstein & Associates has donated $250,000 over five years. We have received significant support from an anonymous donor as well.
I am grateful for the investment that the Boyd School of Law and Dean Dan Hamilton has made in this work. I especially want to note that UNLV students have stepped up, offering to help our clients, often without receiving any academic credit. Our partners at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (LACSN) have been remarkable.
Our work for immigrant children is a centerpiece of the UNLV Immigration Clinic. It has expanded the experiences that we have been able to provide our students, and it embodies the community service for which the Boyd School of Law has been known. The AmeriCorps program got this started. The support we have received from the community is allowing us to keep going.