UA law clinic to take on new cases
Hiring comes at time of increased demand for immigration legal services
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas School of Law’s immigration clinic will once again enroll new students and take on new cases after the hire of a visiting professor, said Annie Smith, director of the law school’s Civil Litigation and Advocacy Clinic.
Christina Pollard starts teaching Aug. 14, UA spokesman Steve Voorhies said.
Her arrival comes at a time of increased demand for immigration legal services in Northwest Arkansas, said Drew Devenport, an immigration attorney based in Springdale, who stepped in at the law school after the departure of the immigration clinic’s first director, Elizabeth Young.
UA established its immigration clinic in 2008. Students work under the oversight of a professor to offer clients free legal help.
Young left in fall 2016 to become an immigration judge in California. Devenport said no new students or new cases were taken up during the spring semester, when he taught an immigration course at the law school and also oversaw casework begun earlier in the clinic.
Typically, four to eight students might enroll each semester in the immigration clinic, he said.
“It provides a vital function for the community,” said Devenport. As students rotate through the clinic, they are somewhat limited in the help they can provide, Devenport said. But the free legal help is “for a section of the community that oftentimes doesn’t have a lot of options or a lot of funds,” he added.
Within a week of taking office in January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order stating his policy to use “all available systems and resources” in carrying out immigration laws.
In Northwest Arkansas, “we’re seeing a lot of people go into ICE custody” after being stopped for “relatively minor” traffic violations, Devenport said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Pew Research Center in February analyzed illegal alien populations in metro areas, estimating the metro area that includes Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers as having a population of 30,000 illegal aliens, plus or minus 5,000, in 2014.
Various aspects of immigration law and policy may be changing under Trump. On Wednesday, he voiced support for a plan to limit legal immigration and reduce an emphasis on family ties when deciding on applications.
Devenport, an attorney with the Davis Law Firm, said, “we’re certainly seeing more clients.”
In January, Frank Head, director of Springdale-based Catholic Charities Immigration Services, said the organization has typically referred several hundred clients a year to UA for help.
Students have previously assisted with an educational citizenship event for area residents, Margarita Solorzano,
executive director of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, has said.
Pollard said she and Solorzano are planning a student-led event for October, and she said she has met with Head and invites the organization’s referrals to the clinic.
“I am very excited to serve the immigrant community,” said Pollard, whose experience includes directing an immigration law clinic at Oklahoma City University School of Law and teaching at Seattle University. Stacy Leeds, the law school’s dean, in an email said a national search will resume to find a permanent faculty replacement for Young.
Pollard earns a salary of $105,000, Voorhies said. Young’s salary was $151,852 when she left UA.
Smith said in an email that clinic students learn skills such as interviewing that help them regardless of their future legal specialty. The UA law school’s website lists seven clinics on various topics.
Devenport, a 2012 UA law school graduate, took part in the immigration clinic as a student.
“Before the clinic, I honestly had no inclination or any idea that I would end up practicing immigration law,” Devenport said. The experience “brought out the passion and drive,” he said.
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