Law clinic receives grant to further assist immigrants and asylum seekers

Stained glass
St. Vincent de Paul visits with slaves and the poor in a stained glass window at the Church of Saint-Laurent in Paris. This year, DePaul's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic received a grant from the Western Province of the Congregation of the Mission to further assist hundreds of low-income refugees and immigrants with legal services. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)

Last quarter, DePaul's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic received a $10,000 grant as part of the Walking with the Poor program, operated by The Western Province of the Congregation of the Mission. The clinic will use the grant to further assist hundreds of low-income refugees and immigrants with legal services.

"As a Vincentian institution, this grant deepens our relationship with the Vincentian community and speaks to DePaul's mission," says Sioban Albiol, a senior professional lecturer and director of the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic. "We're thrilled to have this opportunity that will help us better serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

Each year, the clinic provides direct legal service to approximately 30 clients and works with another 30 community-organizations to improve access to justice for hundreds of low-income foreign-born clients. Though clients generally pay the associated costs and filing fees for legal filings - which can cost upwards of $1,000 - there are a number of additional expenses that often add up when going through legal processes. That's where the grant comes in.

"For example, not all of our clients live in places with easy access to transportation to our office in the Loop," Albiol says. "This grant will help cover their transportation expenses. It also will help pay for the cost of translators and interpreters when we are unable to find volunteers, accessing legal documents, and even having critical documents shipped from clients' home countries. Our legal system makes some assumptions about the access immigrants and refugees have to language, to evidence and documents, and even to transportation all of which factor into successful presentation of a claim. Ultimately, this grant is helping us put our low-income clients on an even playing field with others who have their own resources." 

Though the main beneficiary of the grants are the clients served by DePaul's law clinic, students also gain some crucial experience.

"Our main objective is to provide effective legal services to low-income clients," Albiol says. "We try to impart a client-centered approach. There is a rapport-building component to that, too. By showing clients hospitality - being able to provide lunch or coffee to clients, in particular clients who may be missing a meal or work in order to meet with us to prepare the case - our students have the opportunity to learn to interact with clients as people rather than as a legal issue."  

Since 1996, DePaul's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic has continually evolved to better serve the needs of students, the community, immigrants and refugees. Throughout the year-long program, students prepare defenses, immigration applications, work with experts, research human rights issues, and develop trial skills and other public presentation skills. To learn more, visit the clinic's website.

Sioban Albiol, center, director of DePaul's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, and her students provide free legal services to low-income refugees and immigrants. (Image courtesy of Joanie Hart).