Defending Vulnerable Populations Project | CLINIC


Defending Vulnerable Populations Project

After the 2016 presidential election, we find ourselves facing anti-immigrant sentiment aimed at the most vulnerable among us. This takes the form of rhetoric that dehumanizes immigrants, executive orders to ramp up detention and removal, the expansion of expedited removal, and shutting down refugee processing and barring people from certain Muslim countries. In addition, more than 500,000 immigrants currently have pending immigration court proceedings. The overwhelming majority of them must represent themselves because legal representation is not available.

To respond to these urgent circumstances and prepare for additional policy measures that will hurt immigrant families, CLINIC has launched the Defending Vulnerable Populations Project.

The project’s primary objective is to increase the number of fully accredited representatives and attorneys who are qualified to represent immigrants in immigration court proceedings. To accomplish this, the Defending Vulnerable Populations Project will conduct court skills training for both nonprofit agency staff (accredited representatives and attorneys) and pro bono attorneys; develop practice materials to assist legal representatives; advocate against retrogressive policy changes; and expand public awareness on issues faced by vulnerable immigrants.

By increasing access to competent, affordable representation, the project’s initiatives will focus on protecting the most vulnerable immigrants – those at immediate risk of deportation. As project Manager Michelle Mendez explains: “It is the responsibility of the legal community to protect immigrants living in the United States who do not have a voice. They are an integral part of our families, communities, schools and universities, places of worship, workforce, food supply chain, and the very identity of this nation. We are committed to defending their rights because this is what justice and fairness dictates and because, if their rights are safe, all of our rights are safe.”

The Defending Vulnerable Populations project complements and encompasses CLINIC’s established BIA Pro Bono Appeals project, which partners with volunteer attorneys and law clinics to defend detained asylum seekers and long-time lawful permanent residents before the Board of Immigration Appeals at no charge. The BIA is the nation’s highest immigration court, deciding deportation cases. A Department of Justice report in 2014 found that BIA Pro Bono Project clients were three times more likely to receive a favorable result in their cases when they obtained representation through the project.

“For 16 years, the BIA Pro Bono Project has taken the toughest cases on behalf of the most vulnerable immigrants,” said Bradley Jenkins, CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Project Manager. “Through the efforts of our pro bono attorneys, we have transformed deportation orders into durable relief for hundreds of refugees and permanent residents, and in the process, we have set precedents that protect thousands more.”

Building on the foundation of the BIA Pro Bono Project, the Defending Vulnerable Populations Project team will build effective court skills through a combination of e-learning and in-person trainings, mentorship, legal and advocacy case support, and comprehensive legal resources. “Increasing access to competent, affordable removal defense nationwide at the trial level is our goal. Winning cases before immigration judges is not only possible with the proper guidance and support, it will alleviate the need for BIA appeals,” said Staff Attorney Rebecca Scholtz.

If you are a CLINIC affiliate or non-profit attorney interested in participating, please contact Defending Vulnerable Populations Project Assistant, Katherine Montanez-Montes at



This webinar covered some best practices in informing your client communities about exposure to enforcement, protection against enforcement, and potential eligibility for immigration benefits.  It addressed: current enforcement priorities (as of 3/13/17); what to cover in a Know Your Rights presentation and how to cover it; what materials to distribute; the potential integration of self-screening or onsite screening by legal providers; and safety planning information. 

Page last updated: Apr. 4, 2017

Learn about what makes Maryland  unique when it comes to contingency planning. Those participating in this webinar will learn how to properly advise resident Maryland families who are facing potential family separation and what measures they should take to care for their children. It considers custody, guardianship, powers of attorney and kinship care affidavits. Ethical issues will also are discussed. Featured speakers are Maryland attorneys Van Doan, Jon Greene, and Michael Stelmack.

Page last updated: Mar. 30, 2017

CLINIC, along with Public Counsel, filed this amicus brief on March 7, 2016 in Doe v. Sessions before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. This brief provided the court with a framework, drawn from our experience working with young asylum-seekers, to decide whether the coerced actions of a child can trigger the "serious nonpolitical crime" bar to asylum.


Page last updated: Mar. 10, 2017

Since 2014, the Executive Office for Immigration Review docketing priorities have included unaccompanied minors and adults with children who were released at the border or from family detention.

Page last updated: Mar. 10, 2017

The “Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL): A State-by-State Overview of Legal Mechanisms to Combat these Deceptive Practice” resource is intended for immigration attorneys, recognized and accredited representative, and community-based organizations assisting noncitizen clients who have been victims of unauthorized practice of immigration law. 

Page last updated: Mar. 8, 2017

CLINIC has asked SIJ experts in MD and NY to draft affidavits describing in detail their respective state laws expanding state “juvenile” court jurisdiction from 18 to the age of 20. Advocates should use these affidavits in a creative manner including submission to USCIS in response to Requests for Further Evidence (RFE) or to Immigration Judge to request release from custody.

Page last updated: Feb. 22, 2017

Are you expecting a friend or family member to arrive from one of the "travel ban" countries? Tell Airport Lawyer about their planned arrival. Airport Lawyer will share this information with teams of volunteer lawyers.

Page last updated: Feb. 13, 2017

On Feb. 9, 2017, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the federal government’s motion for a stay of an order enjoining implementation of the president’s Executive Order barring certain travel to the United States.

Page last updated: Feb. 13, 2017

CLINIC continues to monitor and is considering advocacy and litigation strategies to assist refugees and nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen affected by the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” Executive Order. If your organization is serving an affected individual, CLINIC asks that you share the following information to help inform our strategies:

Page last updated: Mar. 7, 2017

Catholic Legal Immigration Network asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider its decision in Matter of W-A-F-C, 6 I&N Dec. 880 (BIA 2016) in a Jan. 17, 2017 motion to reconsider.

Page last updated: Feb. 10, 2017

This guide is intended to support pro bono attorneys, fully accredited Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Representatives, law students, and paralegals working to prevent the deportation of families who recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum and have been ordered removed in absentia by an Immigration Judge (IJ). The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) at the Urban Justice Center and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Page last updated: Feb. 10, 2017

The Board of Immigration Appeals is currently considering the circumstances under which a person may qualify for asylum if they fear persecution on account of their family relationship to another person. CLINIC and Justice for Our Neighbors have offered an amicus brief arguing that family, standing alone, is a ‘particular social group’ as used in asylum law. 

Page last updated: Feb. 22, 2017

CLINIC and ASAP created guidance in Spanish for the Immigrant Justice Corps to distribute at the New York City Immigration Court to the Central American asylum-seeking mothers and children in deportation proceedings.

Download the guide.

Page last updated: Mar. 24, 2017