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UW Law Students Plan Trip to Border to Assist Immigrants in Detention Centers


A group of nine University of Wisconsin-Madison law students will drive to Dilley, Texas, in August to assist immigrants being held in a family detention center.

“Statistics show that, if you have an attorney, you are five times more likely to be successful (in a deportation hearing),” said Erin Barbato, an immigration attorney who leads the immigrant Justice Clinic at UW. “And you don’t have to face a system that is intimidating or as you’ve seen in the news, 3-year-olds representing themselves in front of an immigration judge. That should never happen. It’s shameful.”

Each semester, the Immigrant Justice Clinic at UW allows about a dozen students to practice immigration law under Barbato’s license and do pro bono work for local immigrants in need of representation.

Immigrants, including unaccompanied minors, are not given a government attorney to represent them. If they can’t afford an attorney, they are forced to represent themselves.

“Everyone, in our opinion, is entitled to due process, and a lot of people aren’t receiving that because they’re not from here and that seems very strange to us,” said law student Nancy Cruz.

As a member of the Latino and Latina Law Student Association, Cruz helped organize the trip to Texas.

“We focus our careers and our resources to make sure that everybody gets justice and everybody has access to basic human necessities and are treated like humans,” said Cruz.

Although Dilley is home to one of the nation’s largest immigrant detention centers, Barbato said it’s an “immigration attorney desert” with barely any free resources.