1L Immigration Law and Advocacy Clinic
The 1L Immigration Law & Advocacy Clinic provides students the opportunity to engage in direct services with clients in their first year of law school. Students will learn how to deliver a variety of legal services via a client-centered approach in the context of immigration law. Professor Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer directs the clinic.
“Working on the ground in Dilley, Texas, gave me invaluable experience beyond the classroom setting. It made me a better advocate and taught me an incredible amount about the intricacies of asylum law.”
--Emily Szopinski, CLS ‘20
Clinic students can expect to gain proficiency in the following areas: client interviewing; community-based lawyering; oral presentations; case management; cultural competency; and facility with relevant immigration law.
Clinic students represent Cornell students, from undergraduates to grad students, in immigration applications including DACA renewals, citizenship applications, and green card renewals. We may also consult with or represent family members of Cornell students, Cornell faculty and staff, and Ithaca community members. We partner with Catholic Charities of Tompkins County to augment the services they provide the immigrant community in Ithaca and the surrounding areas.
Projects and Presentations
As a public-service clinic, part of our mission is to conduct outreach in the community, both at the law school and university and in the larger region of Upstate New York. As part of this commitment, students engage in community advocacy through Know Your Rights and Undocu-Ally presentations on campus and in the community. Students keep abreast of developments in immigration law and create fact-sheet documents for affected communities.
Some casework may take place offsite, including at local nonprofits, on farms through collaboration with the Cornell Farmworkers Program, in detention centers, or in immigration court. Students may have the opportunity to travel for service projects, including to a detention center, as part of their clinical work. Previously, students spent a week in Dilley, Texas, at the country’s largest family detention facility, assisting asylum-seekers with their legal cases. Students created a vlog to document their experience, available here.
"Working with Professor Kelley-Widmer to help individuals prepare DACA renewal applications was both an important and meaningful experience during my time in law school . . . Being able to use my legal skills to immediately respond to policy changes like the rescission of DACA made law school a more rewarding experience, and this opportunity was particularly instructive and memorable."
--Matthew Lutwen, CLS ‘19
“Working with asylum seekers was the most rewarding experience I have had in law school. Because asylum seekers don't have a right to a lawyer at government expense, I know that the work we did was an incredibly important part of the process to help asylum seekers find safety in the U.S. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity while still in school to put my law degree to good use.”
--Hillary Rich, CLS ‘19
“Being in the clinic gave me the opportunity to work with people in a variety of stages in the immigration process: from families making the decision to immigrate to the U.S. in Tijuana, to women and children in detention centers in Dilley, Texas, to migrant farmworkers in upstate New York. The clinic has taught me skills to help immigrants navigate their way through a confusing and difficult system.”
--Arielle Wisbaum, CLS ‘20
“Representing DACA students and delivering Know Your Rights presentations on the greater Cornell campus via CLS's clinical programs have been the most rewarding and educational experiences of my law school career. I've been honored to do important hands-on work in a time where immigration lawyers are needed now more than ever. Furthermore, I've received high-quality practical instruction that's given me a sense of what real-life immigration and community-based lawyering looks like.”
--Amanda Wong, CLS ‘19
In the News