After two years as a project within Training, Litigation and Support, Defending Vulnerable Populations on March 1 became a separate department within CLINIC. Though it comes as an acknowledgment of the importance of the work DVP has developed, the change primarily shapes administrative functions within CLINIC.
DVP Director Michelle Mendez will continue to lead the team of attorneys and administrative professionals with vast experience serving vulnerable immigrants and offering legal support to immigrant advocates. CLINIC attorneys Vickie Neilsen and Rebecca Scholtz will serve as DVP’s managing attorney and senior attorney, respectively.
With this change, CLINIC will streamline the administrative side of multiple projects and initiatives that respond to the growing needs of legal immigration practitioners and community advocates who work with vulnerable populations. Their efforts focus on deportation crackdowns, family separation, employment loss and other disruptive effects of the administration’s policy changes.
DVP will take on federal litigation efforts for CLINIC, with attorney Bradley Jenkins in a new role as federal litigation attorney. Attorney Rachel Naggar will take on Jenkins’s previous responsibility of coordinating the BIA Pro Bono Appeals Project. DVP attorneys also will continue to track immigration cases before the U.S. Courts of Appeals and federal District Courts.
"At a time when ICE is ramping up enforcement against immigrants, I hope the BIA Pro Bono Project can continue to increase access to high quality legal representation for this vulnerable population,” said Naggar. Jenkins highlighted the significant role volunteers and staff have had on the BIA Project’s success, while looking forward to his new role as federal litigation attorney for DVP.
“The role is exciting and an opportunity to make the immigration system more fair,” said Jenkins.
Mendez said her team will work alongside trusted allies to develop cutting-edge models for remote legal representation and continue offering “training, mentoring and litigation with advocacy in the form of amicus briefing, reports, comments to proposed regulations, the press and other media.”
She added: “for the Defending Vulnerable Populations team, it is an honor to train, mentor and work with immigration practitioners.”
CLINIC’s Executive Director Ana Gallagher said she looks forward to working with DVP, particularly in identifying key litigation projects and drawing on the team’s expertise to further maximize and strengthen organizational efforts.
“CLINIC will undertake litigation in a smart, strategic and measured approach, choosing issues that benefit our network and uphold CLINIC’s mission,” Gallagher said.
To learn more about DVP and its new initiatives, visit cliniclegal.org/defending-vulnerable-populations-project