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UMN law center plans for steady increase in immigration cases

Members of the University Law School’s Center for New Americans are regrouping as they anticipate more Trump immigration orders.
Walter F. Mondale Hall at the University of Minnesota on Sunday.
Image by Carter Jones
Walter F. Mondale Hall at the University of Minnesota on Sunday.

A University of Minnesota law center focused on immigration is bracing for more work as it expects another policy announcement from President Donald Trump.

The University of Minnesota Law School’s James H. Binger Center for New Americans provided free legal services to immigrants in response to Trump’s original travel ban. Now, students and faculty members anticipate their help will stay in-demand if Trump signs new immigration orders.

The CNA, which formed in 2013, is a set of legal clinics that pair students and faculty to do pro-bono work on immigration law cases. The center recently received a $25 million gift to ensure its long-term operations.

While the original January executive order has been stalled while it’s challenged in court, those from the Muslim-majority countries it targeted still feel its impacts.

The center’s services were also affected in the aftermath.

“There was this sense of complete chaos… that, truthfully, hasn’t really gone away,” said Regina Jefferies, clinical teaching fellow for CNA’s Detainee Rights Clinic. “People are scared that they’ll be impacted again.”

And some CNA members predict a new executive order could come from Trump’s office within the next week.

“We’re feeling around in the dark so to speak … It’s hard to challenge a law until you actually have the law written down on paper,” said John Bruning, a student director for CNA’s Detainee Rights Clinic.

Bruning said preparing currently means firming up connections to non-profits and organizing the over 100 on-call volunteer attorneys and law students.

CNA Fights January Order

Immediately after Trump signed Jan. 27 order, CNA faculty and other legal volunteers went to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to offer services to those affected by the ban.

Hundreds of volunteers from law institutions like Advocates for Human Rights, St. Thomas School of Law and Mitchell-Hamline School of Law joined CNA in giving legal help.

“I have not seen a volunteer response like this ever, and I have been practicing for quite a while,” Jefferies said.

After the initial incident, the CNA continued to give legal help to those affected by the ban.

Students and faculty from the center’s Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic helped prepare litigation for a 4-year-old Somali girl who was in danger of being detained in Uganda, said Nadia Anguiano-Wehde, a student director for the Detainee Rights Clinic.

The Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic has also helped gather affidavits and proof of harm to support cases against the January order.

“Speaking to so many people at the edge of desperation was really very devastating as an attorney working on the other side,” Anguiano-Wehde said. “But at the same time, it was incredibly powerful to be able to do something very tangible to help.”

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