One way the West Virginia University College of Law is ensuring that happens is through its clinical law program, where students are gaining practice-ready experience while serving those in need.
Third-year students Katie Wilson and Babatunde Adedapo recently experienced the professional and personal success of working on a real-world case. For the past several months, they have been helping a detained Mexican national as part of their work in the WVU Immigration Law Clinic.
Married, with five children, the client has been living with his family in the U.S. for more than a decade. Wilson and Adedapo took on the case last fall after an immigration judge ordered his deportation.
Wilson and Adedapo recently learned that the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, has sent their client’s case back to a lower court immigration judge for reconsideration. He is now one step closer to his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen and reuniting with his family.
To win their case, Wilson and Adedapo successfully argued that their client was not properly advised of the specific types of evidence he needed to support his application to stay in the U.S.
They also proved that he was not made aware of free legal services, such as WVU’s Immigration Law Clinic.
“Our job was to review the records and present an argument to the Board of Immigration as to why the lower court immigration judge had made the wrong decision,” Wilson said.
Throughout the case, Wilson and Adedapo worked closely with Pittsburgh-based attorney Robert Whitehill, who is a co-director of the WVU Immigration Law Clinic with law professor Michael Blumenthal.
“During the process, we would put forth drafts of our arguments which he [Whitehill] would review with us, making sure we were on the right track,” said Wilson, who wants a career in international and refugee law.
For Adedapo, who plans to pursue immigration law, the work he does in the clinic hits close to home.
“I’m of Nigerian descent and my parents were immigrants,” he said. “So doing this type of work is definitely something I take pride in.”
Not only did the case provide Wilson and Adedapo with a chance to hone their skills and prove their abilities, but it also enabled them to make a difference in someone’s life.
“It’s about fighting the battle for people that can’t fight it by themselves,” Adedapo said. “I think that’s the worthwhile part about it. Obviously students are getting experience by working in the clinic, but we’re also helping the community.”
Wilson and Adedapo’s case is just one of several successes stories that have come out of the Immigration Law Clinic. For almost two decades, the clinic has been helping foreign citizens throughout the region faced with immigration challenges.
There are 10 areas of clinical law opportunities at WVU, including Civil Practice, Child & Family Law with Medical-Legal Partnership, Domestic Violence, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Law, the Innocence Project, Taxpayer Advocacy, Land Use & Sustainable Development Law, United States Supreme Court, and the Veterans’ Assistance Project.
The clinical law program was established in 1976 and provides over 40,000 hours of pro bono legal aid per year.
For more information on how to seek assistance from the WVU Clinical Law program, call 304-293-7249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s important to let the community know that we are here to serve them,” Wilson said.