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About

The University of Minnesota Law School established the Center for New Americans—the first of its kind in the nation—in 2013 with a generous gift from the Robina Foundation. The Center was designed in formal partnership with the pro bono programs of several of Minnesota's preeminent law firms—Faegre Baker Daniels; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; and Dorsey & Whitney—and our state's leading immigration nonprofits—the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, The Advocates for Human Rights, and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.

Center students and faculty collaborate with our partners to provide urgently needed legal services to noncitizens, pursue litigation that will improve our nation's immigration laws, and educate noncitizens about their rights. By combining resources and expertise, the Center and our partners expand both the availability and impact of pro bono representation. We accomplish this through three integrated clinics and our education and outreach program:

  • The Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic seeks to improve U.S. immigration law through collaborative impact litigation in the federal courts. Students work with law firm lawyers and immigration experts in important cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. District Courts, U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Students also engage in non-adversarial policy advocacy outside the courtroom that furthers the Center's litigation priorities.
  • The Detainee Rights Clinic defends the rights of indigent noncitizens incarcerated by the Department of Homeland Security. Students build crucial legal skills by representing clients at all stages of their cases, from intake to fast-paced administrative hearings before immigration judges to appeals when necessary.
  • The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic represents asylum seekers fleeing persecution. Students interview and counsel clients, research conditions in the countries from which their clients have fled, draft briefs in defense of their clients' claims, and then present the claims to the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration Court, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Students participate in various public policy projects dealing with immigration reform proposals.
  • The education and outreach program educates noncitizens about their legal rights, and trains lawyers to provide high quality pro bono legal services in collaboration with our clinics.

The Center was created in response to a critical, unmet need for pro bono legal services in our immigrant and refugee communities. Nearly 400,000 Minnesota residents are foreign born, including many refugees and asylees who fled their home countries because of war, persecution, and human rights abuses. While Minnesota has a deserved reputation for outstanding legal services in the immigration field, the needs continue to grow and far outstrip available pro bono resources. As many as 300 noncitizens are detained in Minnesota on any given day, and, without the ability to work, most cannot hire a lawyer to defend their rights. Similarly, asylum seekers who have fled to America desperately need expert assistance to navigate our legal system, but most lack any resources to pay for it. And very few noncitizens who must pursue a complex immigration appeal in federal court could possibly cover the high costs of a private lawyer.

The Center, under the direction of Benjamin Casper, is dedicated to working to transform the system through litigation and non-adversarial policy engagement, especially as the debate over immigration reform continues in the U.S. Congress.