Rutgers Law School Clinic Seeks Justice for Immigrants in Trying Times

Rutgers Law Students

Joanne Gottesman, left, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, and Julie Peterson, a third-year law student.

By Caroline Yount RLAW’05

A law school clinic in Camden gives students the unique opportunity to practice lawyering while helping protect the rights of immigrants at risk of being detained and deported.

The Immigrant Justice Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Camden assigns students to represent immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence during a time of increased enforcement activity by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Julie Peterson, a third-year law student who was enrolled in the clinic last spring and is continuing in an advanced capacity this fall, said the work is “very emotional. We are dealing with people who are quite vulnerable.”

She is part of a group of eight students who work in teams of two for an intensive
experience—a seminar where participants study substantive immigration law as they represent clients from all over the world. “The clinic gives students a chance to feel the full responsibility
of being a lawyer,” said Joanne Gottesman, clinical professor of law and director of the clinic. “I am a safety net, but they are on the front line.”

Gottesman and Peterson have seen more anxiety among their clients in the past year. The clinic has been involved with offering Know Your Rights presentations to community groups and helping clients prepare for possible contact with ICE officials. Peterson said knowing that the students are there to represent them helps the immigrants “feel a little bit safer.”

She also has found the work rewarding. “It has been an amazing learning experience and a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Peterson said.

Posted in: 2017 FALL

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