Immigration Clinic eyes future funding for Community Advocacy Office

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For nearly two years, the UNLV Immigration Clinic’s Community Advocacy Office has been able to provide legal representation for cases that are the “most complex in immigration law, the clinic’s”director Michael Kagan told Clark County Commissioners Tuesday.

And with funding dedicated through the end of next year, Kagan told commissioners the clinic would need ongoing support beyond 2024 in order to keep providing services. 

During a presentation to Clark County Commissioners on Tuesday,  Kagan said the expanded clinic has been able to represent 343 clients since January 2022. 

“I would expect that next year we will seek an incremental increase similar to the level increase from the state we received,” Kagan said. 

Nevada lawmakers allocated $500,000 to the clinic during the 2021 legislative session. 

That same year, Clark County allocated an additional $500,000 to the clinic  – $250,000 annually for two years. The commission voted Tuesday to extend that amount through 2024. 

Both funding sources allowed the UNLV Immigration Clinic to expand to its downtown office. 

The clinic received donated office space by former Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, and directed 75% of the funds toward payroll.

Clark County Commission Marilyn Kirkpatrick asked how much money the clinic might be asking for in future budget years, but Kagan said he couldn’t provide a number yet.

“If we were to request for two years again, and this would be done next year, it would go into the biennium of the state cycle, which goes beyond where we’ve made a planning budget,” he said. “I’m working right now on that planning.”

While the county approved additional funding, Kirkpatrick said county staff will start discussing the 2025 fiscal year budget, which starts in mid-2024, next month. 

“At some point, this board has to know what the long term expectation is because everybody’s programing, their mission, is increasing, but it’s the same pie of money,” Kirkpatrick said. 

There are “rising expenses,” Kagan noted. While the Immigration Justice Court provides the clinic with lawyers, he said the office needs to hire support staff and legal secretaries. 

Tuesday’s presentation also provided an update on the work being done at the clinic and the void it’s filling in the state. 

There were 8,567 deportation cases filed in Nevada in the 2023 fiscal year. An estimated 85% of those people facing removal didn’t have an attorney, according to the presentation from the clinic, which is only able to help a fraction of those immigrants. 

Compared to less complicated immigration applications, like renewal forms for recipients of  Deferred Action for Children Arrivals, Kagan said the deportation cases are much more complex. 

“Some of the types of cases we take on could be the caseload for a single attorney for an entire year,” he said. “They are intensive litigation. It takes several years for these cases to be resolved.”

Of the 343 clients the clinic represented since 2022, 134 were unaccompanied children, 81 were detained adults, and 128 involved university legal services — free advice and representation for UNLV students, staff, and their families.

Kagan said the clinic also provided 371 legal consultations and fielded 1,066 phone calls.

Two clients who have been helped by the clinic  – a mother from Guatemala who came to the United States in 2018 but was separated from her three children, and a college student from Belize who came to the United States in 2019 when she was 17 – shared their stories with commissioners on Tuesday. 

They also encouraged commissioners to keep providing funding. 

“I don’t know what would have happened without the support and representation from UNLV,” Elvira Velasquez, the client from Guatemala said speaking through translation. 

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