Immigrant Justice Practicum
Lawyer. Counselor. Organizer. Researcher. Administrator. Watchdog. Successful immigration and human rights attorneys must wear many hats. And Loyola’s Immigrant Justice Practicum (IJP) lets future practitioners try them all on — before they even leave school.
A two-semester program emphasizing the practical skills required for effective advocacy, the IJP begins in the fall with a two-credit-hour seminar. Each week, three adjunct professors from the National Immigration Legal Center (NILC) lead students through exercises that include everything from filing complaints with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and taking depositions with a translator, to working with bureaucratic public agencies and giving media interviews.
“When you are a public interest lawyer, you’re not just litigating. It’s a mix of policy, administrative and advocacy work, handling the media, direct client representation, interacting with supervising attorneys and navigating agency bureaucracies,” said Adjunct Professor Nora Preciado. “We are here to train students to do all those things that no one tells them about in class, the skills that will come in handy in the field.”
To ensure students learn those skills in a cohesive fashion, Preciado and her colleagues select real-life case studies as a framework for the semester. This year, the class is using Arizona’s SB 1070 — the controversial state immigration enforcement bill.
“Arizona makes for a perfect lesson because it’s still evolving and we are able to ask the students to really think about what it means to bring a legal challenge. We are going to sit them down and say, ‘Where would you start? What claims would you even look at?’” she said. “Anybody can look at a pleading; the point is to start making them think, ‘How do you start to tackle something like that?’”
In the spring, students move on to externships at top public-interest agencies like the NILC, the ACLU, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project and the Legal Aid Foundation, while continuing to meet with their class twice a month to discuss work experiences.
While practical legal questions are still discussed, these class sessions delve into issues of emotions, attachments and work-life balance.
“In this field, it’s impossible not to take your work home with you to a certain extent. You tend to take on the trauma your clients are experiencing, and that’s something the students don’t really get until they witness it,” Preciado said. “So we talk a lot about how you take care of yourself.”
Created in 2009, the IJP was the brainchild of esteemed human rights attorney and Professor Kathleen Kim, who pioneered civil litigation on behalf of human trafficking survivors at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco.
“The idea was to design a program that would foster a legal and academic community that was sensitive to the changing needs and challenges of the immigrant population in Los Angeles and beyond,” Kim said.
And Loyola’s close relationship with — and close proximity to — the nation’s top public interest firms made it an ideal place for such a program. Last spring, the inaugural cohort of students was able to help assist a variety of agencies prepare wage and hour cases, provide direct-client services for deportation cases, file impact litigation concerning mentally ill immigration detainees and represent minors in immigration court.
“Rather than just creating a synthetic laboratory on campus, we’re actually sending our students to these agencies and providing a vivid and realistic learning experience,” Kim said. “We are right in the heart of the immigrants’ rights community.”
Immigrant Justice Practicum
919 Albany St.
Los Angeles, CA 90293