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San Joaquin College of Law Launches New Clinic to Assist Immigrants By Rebecca E. Neely Both professors and students at the San Joaquin College of Law, located in Clovis, California, joined together to pilot a free student run law clinic last fall at the Consulate of Mexico to assist legal immigrants with a variety of issues.

Over a period of months, Justin Atkinson, a lawyer and professor at the San Joaquin College of Law, along with law students, assisted over 200 immigrants with various legal issues, mainly the process of legal immigration. In recent days, Atkinson, along with nine San Joaquin College of Law students, were pleased to announce the official opening of the Law School’s New American Legal Clinic. Atkinson and the students help many people like Modesto, who’d been a legal U.S. resident for over thirty years, to bring his family to live with him. He’d been scammed, and had given $30,000 to an alleged ‘immigration consultant’. Not only did the consultant take the money and run, Modesto wasn’t able to get his family into the United States. However, with the help of Atkinson, Modesto’s paperwork was filed properly, and his family will be coming to live with him in about a year. Stories like his, sadly, are quite common – hence, the need for the clinic. Legal immigrants who qualify for citizenship, legal residency or a change of visa can get free help at the clinic. Both law students and professors can assist legal immigrants with obtaining family visas or work permits. As well, they can assist victims of domestic violence who may be in the country illegally, but still qualify for a special visa to remain. Twice a week, the clinic will be open for business at Consulate of Mexico. Appointments can be made at the San Joaquin College of Law campus in Clovis. Faculty advisers Gregory Francisco Gillett and Atkinson are making preparations to assist an estimated 2,000 immigrants in the spring semester. However, they expected demand for

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legal advice to be tremendous, perhaps even more than they can handle. There is an overwhelming need for immigration services in the Central Valley. According to statistics provided by the Public Policy Institute of California, in the last forty years, the number of California residents born abroad is five times what it was, and has grown from almost two million to ten million. Large numbers of the immigrants – almost half – have, over the years, become naturalized U.S. citizens. However, most of these individuals live in areas of Northern and Southern California, and so have ready access to assistance with the immigration process. Because the Central Valley is so underrepresented in immigration services, sadly, fraud and scams have proliferated, underscoring the need for clinics such as these. The central purpose of the clinic is to not only assist legal immigrants; it’s to train lawyers by giving them hands-on experience. According to information at the San Joaquin College of Law website, the mission of the Law School is to “educate and develop individuals to become highly skilled attorneys and problem solvers who will benefit their communities through public and private service”. The New American Legal Clinic clearly fulfills the furtherance of this mission. Other law schools in the area have recognized the need for legal services, and have opened clinics. These include the University of California at Los Angeles and Davis. Founded in Fresno in 1969 San Joaquin College of Law (SJCL) is a private, non-profit law school.

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San Joaquin College of Law Launches New Clinic to Assist Immigrants