Pictured above: 2019-20 Students and faculty in the Georgia State Law Immigration Clinic
The Georgia State University College of Law Immigration Clinic was awarded a grant from the American Bar Endowment to train attorneys on how to advocate for noncitizens who have been unlawfully denied work permits.
With the $18,000 grant, Georgia State Law clinical faculty will train attorneys at Kilpatrick Townsend, Troutman Pepper and Alston & Bird so that they can handle, collectively, 10 lawsuits against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in federal district court.
In addition to the lawsuits, the grant covers training events hosted by local law firms for attorneys and students as well as the development of online training videos for advocates nationwide.
“The grant initiative, like the clinic, is grounded in the belief that all persons, no matter their income level or immigration status, deserve dignity and respect,” said Will Miller, clinical supervising attorney in the Immigration Clinic. “Securing a low-income noncitizen’s right to work, while at the same time holding our government to account for unlawful conduct, serves that mission.”
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, noncitizens who are seeking asylum can apply for work permits while they await a decision. These permits also allow them to obtain a driver’s license, a Social Security number and opportunity to legally work and support themselves. However, the approval and denial of employment authorization document (EAD) applications often is arbitrary.
“We recently had a client in the Immigration Clinic who had two daughters listed on her asylum application,” said Miller. “We submitted EAD applications for both girls, providing identical supporting documentation. USCIS approved one daughter’s EAD application but denied the other, declaring it found no evidence of the mother’s pending asylum application. If the application is pending in one girl’s case, it must also be pending in the other. These denials cause major upheavals in families’ lives.”
Helping to ease the upheaval for asylum seekers is part of why the College of Law Immigration Clinic opened in January 2020. In Atlanta, asylum seekers wait about three years for a court date, with a 97 percent asylum denial rate. Students in the clinic are equipped with the skills to address the need for more immigration attorneys in the metro Atlanta area—and hopefully address the state’s 45,000 pending immigration cases.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to provide training and support so that more attorneys feel confident in filing suit against USCIS to safeguard their clients' ability to work,” said Emily Torstveit-Ngara, director of the Immigration Clinic. “This project aims to increase the number of attorneys willing to provide this service so that every individual who is wrongfully denied an EAD will have access to the federal courts to right that wrong."
Written by Kelundra Smith