Law 773 - Immigrants' Rights Policy Clinic

Joseph Berra

Joseph Berra

Human Rights in the Americas Project Director
B.A. St. Louis University, 1981
M.Div. Universidad Centroamericana, 1990
M.A. University of Texas at Austin, 1994
J.D. St. Mary’s University School of Law, 1997
Course Description:

The Immigrants’ Rights Policy Clinic addresses broad-based, systemic issues of immigrants’ rights in a practical setting, with the emphasis on state and local engagement with immigration law and immigrants’ rights.  We will put the constitutional and statutory law of immigrants’ rights into practice.

In prior semesters, IRPC students have worked with community activists and local officials and administrators to draft local ordinances affecting immigrants and their families and communities.  IRPC students have also worked with community organizations in Southern California and other parts of the United States on access to K-12 and higher education; public funding for low-income immigrants facing deportation; and policies in states, cities, and school districts regarding their involvement with federal immigration enforcement.

We will not represent individual clients directly, but we will closely with people in immigrant communities to understand their needs and the solutions that the law may be able to provide.  We will collaborate with nonprofit organizations who are working on cutting-edge immigrants’ rights issues.  We should also expect some of our projects to arise out of the direct representation work of the law school’s Immigrant Family Legal Clinic.

The classroom component will meet for two hours weekly, to cover key aspects of the law defining the state and local role in immigrants’ rights, and to develop skills that Clinic projects will require. The other two hours will generally be devoted more directly to Clinic projects.

Students who will have taken Immigration Law (Law 331) or its equivalent will receive some preference in enrollment, but Immigration Law is not a prerequisite.

This is a graded four-unit course, by letter grade (A to F), with the grade based on a combination of classroom engagement and your work on Clinic projects, including meetings with collaborating attorneys and client organizations.

Schedule and logistics:
Much of the work on Clinic projects can be done on campus, but students will need to travel inside Los Angeles County to meet with collaborating attorneys, clients, and other stakeholders.  

Work on Clinic projects, in addition to preparing for and attending classroom sessions, will require a substantial time commitment — ten hours per week, or more, depending the timing and urgency of particular matters.

Unavoidable client and stakeholder needs may require you to miss a few sessions of other courses.

Course readings, both substantive and skills-focused, will depend on Clinic projects and be available on the MyLaw course website.

Course Learning Outcomes:

This Clinic is designed to help you gain the following knowledge and skills: Substantive knowledge: You can expect to acquire a strong knowledge of the core areas of immigrants’ rights doctrine, including constitutional law (principally equal protection and preemption), as well as key statutory doctrinal areas, esp. educational and occupational access, health care and other public benefits, and local enforcement of federal immigration law. You can expect to apply and deepen your knowledge of immigration law (from the prerequisite Immigration Law course) in assessing practical policy options in the areas of immigrants’ rights addressed in this Clinic. You can expect to combine your knowledge of immigrants’ rights and immigration law in ways that will allow you to work in areas of immigrants’ rights and immigration law beyond those covered specifically in either course.  Practical lawyering skills: You can expect hands-on training in various types of legal writing, including the drafting of legislative texts, legal memoranda, client letters, and press releases and other communications materials, and possibly briefs and other litigation documents. You can expect to acquire skills in client interviewing and counseling, in negotiating with allies and adversaries, and in developing strategies for working toward law reform. The approach to skills development will depend on the substantive topics for each week and their relationship to Clinic projects. These approaches will include in-class discussion of peer editing and instructor editing, as well as mock negotiations and similar role-playing exercises, depending on Clinic projects.