Above: Georgia State Law Immigration Clinic’s 2019-20 students and faculties

Georgia State University College of Law’s Immigration Clinic received a grant from the American Bar Endowment to train attorneys on how to stand up for non-citizens who have been illegally denied work permits.

The US $ 18,000 grant will train the Georgia State Law Clinical Faculty to train attorneys at Kilpatrick Townsend, Troutman Pepper, and Alston & Bird to collectively handle 10 lawsuits against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a federal district court .

In addition to the lawsuits, the grant includes training events hosted by local law firms for attorneys and students, as well as the development of online training videos for attorneys across the country.

“Like the clinic, the grant initiative is built on the belief that all individuals, regardless of income level or immigration status, deserve dignity and respect,” said Will Miller, clinical supervisor at the immigration clinic. “Securing the right to work of a low-income non-citizen while holding our government accountable for illegal behavior serves that mission.”

Under the Immigration and Citizenship Act, non-citizens applying for asylum can apply for work permits while waiting for a decision. These permits also allow them to obtain a driver’s license, social security number, and the ability to legally work and feed themselves. However, the approval and denial of applications for a work permit document (EAD) is often arbitrary.

“We recently had a client at the immigration clinic who listed two daughters on her asylum application,” Miller said. “We submitted EAD applications for both girls and submitted identical documents. USCIS approved one daughter’s EAD application but denied the other, stating that she had found no evidence of the mother’s pending asylum application. If the application is pending with one girl, it must also be pending with the other girl. These rejections cause great upheaval in the life of families. “

Easing the upheaval for asylum seekers is part of the reasons why the College of Law’s Immigration Clinic opened in January 2020. In Atlanta, asylum seekers wait about three years for a court date with an asylum refusal rate of 97 percent. The clinic’s students have the skills to meet the need for more immigration attorneys in the metropolitan Atlanta area – and hopefully address the state’s 45,000 pending immigration cases.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to offer training and assistance so that more attorneys are confident about filing lawsuits against USCIS to keep their clients working,” said Emily Torstveit-Ngara, director of the Immigration Clinic. “This project aims to increase the number of lawyers willing to offer this service so that anyone wrongly denied an EAD can go to the federal courts to rectify that wrong.”

Written by Kelundra Smith