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Law students at the University of Wyoming (UW), a public institution, offered a free clinic earlier this month at the Laramie County Library to help illegal immigrants obtain citizenship.
The university’s Civil Legal Services Clinic (CLSC) led the program.
The director of CLSC, Danielle Cover, has received two university teaching awards for her progressivism — the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award: Inspirational Faculty in 2017 and the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice Faculty Award in 2018. Under Cover’s leadership, the CLSC expanded its pro bono work using grants from the nonprofit, Equal Justice Wyoming Foundation (EJWF).
The EJWF is part of Equal Justice Wyoming (EJW), formerly the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, a state-funded civil legal services program for low-income clients. The Wyoming Supreme Court created EJW in 2011. EJW and its grant-issuing arm, EJWF, are funded by revenues from increased court-filing fees, increased pro hac vice fees paid by out-of-state attorneys, Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds, and Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds.
CLSC only received one EJW grant in 2019 for nearly $38,300, likely due to the EJW’s self-reported years-long struggle to raise sufficient revenue for grants. However, the EJWF also issued over $155,000 in grants to the university for sponsored legal services programming from 2016 to 2021 according to tax filings. For the 2023-24 grant cycle, EJWF and EJW have issued up to $1.8 million in grants.
Along with CLSC, the UW College of Law Estate Planning Practicum participated, as well as two outside law firms: Traveling Immigration Attorney and Hirst-Applegate Immigrant Hope.
Traveling Immigration Attorney is run by Nimsy Garcia, a UW College of Law alumna whose parents were illegal immigrants. The other firm, Hirst-Applegate, first began offering immigration law services last fall, well over a year into the ongoing border crisis.
Law student Ana Rodriguez came up with the idea to host the immigration clinic. Rodriguez told Wyoming Public Media that the current justice system doesn’t work for all, namely minorities.
“Marginalized groups and people of color: the system isn’t built for them. The system is built to oppress and marginalize them further and keep them out,” said Rodriguez. “And so I think that’s a huge problem all throughout the country, but especially in Wyoming, with the lack of attorneys and the lack of resources.”
Rodriguez worked as an immigration paralegal in Colorado in 2021, and previously volunteered as an American Immigration Council translator for detained illegal immigrants, and a staffer for Casa de Paz Colorado, a halfway house for illegal immigrants leaving the Aurora, Colorado detention center.
The American Immigration Council is a nonprofit that advocates for granting automatic legal status to illegal immigrants; the nonprofit has worked closely with the Southern Poverty Law Center and receives funding from major leftist dark money organizations such as George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society and the Ford Foundation. Casa de Paz Colorado is affiliated with the leftist immigration group, Detention Watch Network, which advocates for abolishing all immigration detention.
According to Migration Policy Institute data, collected every 10 years, Wyoming’s foreign-born immigrant population doubled from 1.7% in 1990 to 3.4% in 2021.
The CLSC is looking to hold another clinic for illegal immigrants in late fall near an ICE Detention Center located in Casper, Wyoming. There were over 183,500 encounters last month; a decline from last July and July 2021, but over four times as many as July 2020.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its southwest border encounters data on Friday. Since President Joe Biden took office, there have been over 5.8 million illegal immigrant encounters.