Hofstra offers legal aid to immigrants on L.I.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have increased across the U.S. and many Long Island immigrants are fearful of being deported. On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Hofstra University’s President Stuart Rabinowitz and law school interim Dean Judge A. Gail Prudenti announced a new legal clinic, offering a wide-range of programs at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law for immigrants who are at risk of deportation.

Hofstra’s Deportation Defense Clinic (DDC) will provide legal assistance to immigrants in Nassau and Suffolk County, where an estimated 99,000 are living without legal status, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The clinic is one of 12 programs at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law and will be funded by private donors. Rabinowitz is confident that Hofstra’s legal clinic will go above and beyond to provide aid to those who are concerned with their immigration status.

“Our law school has a long history of representing immigrants through our nationally recognized clinical programs, and this new clinic deepens our commitment to this community, as well as to the values of civic engagement, diversity, and tolerance that are at the heart of Hofstra’s mission,” said President Rabinowitz in a press statement.

The law school will enroll 20 law students each semester, working alongside one senior attorney and one junior attorney. Students will gain hands-on experience with drafting policy briefs and proposed legislation while collaborating with Hofstra University’s Center of Civil Engagement to assist with community advocacy and public outreach, school officials said.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our students to gain meaningful legal experience and make a significant impact in our community,” Judge Prudenti said in a statement.

President Trump’s executive order, under which he vowed to remove undocumented immigrants with criminal records and those who have entered the country illegally, has targeted men and women with no criminal record and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients who migrated to the country as children and have spent most of their lives here.

Theodore Liebmann, professor and director of clinical programs at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, says the clinic was a direct response to President Trump’s executive order.

“When his executive orders came out, we quickly decided that one of the things we could do to respond to the community needs directly would be a clinic that would help with individuals who were detained and in danger of being deported.“

ICE has arrested more than 600 undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security.

“ICE conducts these kinds of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years,“ said Kelly in a news release. “The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.“

Due to immigration raids in Nassau and Suffolk County, Hofstra has hired someone to run the program on a regular basis. Mr. Leibmann stated that the person will start sometime in June and the clinic will begin accepting clients.

Mishal Pahrand, 24, a third-year law student, says although the clinic will not be able to represent each and every person on Long Island who is facing deportation proceedings, it is a remarkable first step in the right direction.

“Immigrants, like everyone else, are a positive asset to the community,” says Pahrand. “They go to school and work just as hard as anyone else in efforts to have better lives. There is no reason they should be mistreated or discriminated unfairly.”