In the Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic, law students provide legal services for farmworkers and community organizations. Because of our focus on both immigration and employment cases, and our ability to assist undocumented as well as documented clients, we are able to offer a unique mix of services within the local legal services landscape.
The Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic provides students with the opportunity to provide legal representation to indigent farmworkers, assume primary responsibility for client matters, develop key lawyering skills, and collaborate with other clinic students, supervisors, and community partners.
Resources, Projects, and Cases
The Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic represents migrant farmworkers in immigration and employment matters and also partners with farmworker advocacy organizations on projects that protect and advance the rights of farmworkers across the country and the world. Below are some examples of publicly available resources the clinic has cocreated with its community partners:
Written testimony on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act Submitted to the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and the New York State Standing Committee on Labor Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act Public Hearing at Loch Sheldrake, New York (May 2, 2019). Click here to hear the oral testimony.
The clinic has obtained guardianship orders and special findings from family and surrogate’s courts in multiple upstate New York counties, thereby allowing young farmworkers to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a particular form of immigration relief available to minors that provides a path to permanent legal residence. Several of these were the first such cases to be heard in their respective counties.
Launched the Pro Se/Pro Bono Child and Youth Farmworker Deportation Defense Project
Obtained a grant of asylum from the Buffalo Immigration Court for a client and her young son, including two merits hearings with numerous lay and expert witnesses.
Obtained financial settlements during in-person mediations on behalf of clients who had filed harassment complaints against their former employers with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
Filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of nearly two dozen Guatemalan workers to recover the illegal recruitment fees they were forced to pay as part of their recruitment to work in the United States on H-2A agricultural guestworker visas.
Partnered with two legal services organizations to send out dozens of state and federal open records act requests to obtain information concerning the work and housing conditions of workers across the country.
Built a team of community partners in Indonesia and Taiwan to lend the clinic’s support to focusing attention on the legal situation of farmworkers in those countries.
Successfully appealed orders from the Buffalo Immigration Court that had prevented students from entering appearances in multiple cases, thereby opening the door for students to appear in immigration court in future cases.
Supported the immediate reduction of the farmworker overtime threshold to forty hours.
Clinic students Brianna Satow, Sasha Brigante, Katie Rahmlow and Tasha Gottschalk-Fielding visit the UFW Foundation on a spring 2023 trip to Bakersfield, California.
Clinic students receive a tour of Forty Acres Farm, the original headquarters for the United Farm Workers labor union, from Lupe Martinez, a lifelong farmworker advocate and environmental activist. Forty Acres, located in Delano, California, offered farmworkers a health clinic, gas station, kitchen, and room and board for elders.
Lupe Martinez of Forty Acres Farm tells clinic students more about the environmental and health harms posed by use of pesticides. Martinez is a lifelong farmworker advocate and environmental activist.
Students in the clinic meets with Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers labor union, to learn about the union’s farmworker advocacy in California and across the United States.
Tasha Gottschalk-Fielding ’23 represented clients in Montgomery County, NY, through the clinic’s Cooperstown.
Participating in the Clinic
The Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic is a setting in which students:
Assume primary responsibility for client matters
Provide excellent legal representation to indigent farmworkers and farmworker support organizations
Develop key lawyering skills, including interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, drafting, negotiation, trauma-informed and language-accessible practice, and, in some cases, trial advocacy
Engage in reflective lawyering, showing the ability to evaluate past performances and continually improve future performances through planning
Collaborate with other clinic students, clinic supervisors, and community partners
Currently most of our individual casework involves the following areas of law:
Guardianship and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status visas for child and youth farmworkers
Visas for crime and trafficking survivors
Policy research and advocacy
Working with the clinic’s community partners and a clinic student partner, Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic student attorneys will handle deportation defense and employment matters on behalf of farmworkers in the region, work that will typically involve negotiation and often require litigation. Students may also have the opportunity to work in brief advice and referral outreach sessions in farmworker communities, and on research and writing projects with civil rights, environmental protection, and farmworker rights organizations. The course often requires off-premises travel to meet with clients and participate in hearings. Each casework credit requires 42.5 hours of casework undertaken between orientation and the end of the exam period.
In parallel with their casework, Farmworker Clinic I students will participate in a 2-credit Lawyering Seminar focused on skills they need for effective client representation, including interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, drafting, negotiation, language accessible practice, and, in some cases, trial advocacy. The seminar will include readings, simulations, and case rounds. There may also be an opportunity to have cross-clinic sessions as well as guest lectures throughout the semester.
Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic II, III, and IV are advanced courses for students who have completed previous semesters in a Cornell Law clinic or who have significant previous practice experience as licensed attorneys. These advanced clinic students enroll for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 credits, depending on the number of projects undertaken, with each credit counting for approximately 42.5 hours apiece. Advanced Farmworker Clinic students attend roughly six required one-hour seminar class “case rounds” meetings during the semester. Weekly seminar time is scheduled to ensure student availability, but actual in-class time will total roughly six hours, likely with an every-other-week meeting schedule. Other multiclinic classes and trainings will be available as well.