The Asylum and Human Rights Clinic at UConn School of Law has won the 2017 Light of Liberty Award from the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center for its work with immigrants seeking asylum.
For the past two years, the clinic has organized the Immigration Detention Service Project, sending a team of law students, social work students, faculty and volunteers to help asylum-seekers held at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania. The team traveled to York over spring break to help detainees prepare their applications for asylum and supporting documentation. The social work students offered psychosocial assessments and support to both detainees and the legal team.
The 2017 trip involved 12 UConn Law students; two students and an alumna from the School of Social Work; one graduate student from the main campus in Storrs; four volunteer attorneys, including three UConn Law alumnae; and three UConn professors – Megan Berthold from the School of Social Work, Mark Overmyer-Velazquez from the Department of History, and Anna Cabot from the law school.
The annual Light of Liberty Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service to the Community recognizes the team's work with York detainees in 2016, the first year of the Immigration Detention Service Project. The award will be presented on June 7, 2017, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Heritage Hills Resort in York, Pa.
The project team in 2016 included law students Katelyn Donovan, Ben Haldeman, Miriam Hasbun, Jane Kelleher, Joyce Lee, Adrianna Michalska, Bianca Slota, Hannah Tenison, Dinora Vazquez and Dvora Walker; social work student Martha Cutt; law professors Jon Bauer and Anna Cabot; social work professors Megan Berthold and Kathy Libal; and volunteer lawyers Meghann LaFountain and Ellen Messali. In 2017, the team consisted of Lee for a second year and fellow law students Pegah Banankhah, Fatimata Belem, Ben Cantor, Lisa Herrera, Jesse King, Julie Ledwig, Erin O’Sullivan, Quyen Truong, Andrea Vizcaino, Rob Vossler and Monia Zgarni; Cabot; volunteer lawyers Messali, LaFountain, Jennifer O’Neill and Enelsa Diaz; and social work students Alysse Melville and Louise Harmon. UConn History Professor Mark Overmyer-Velasquez and student Katheryn Maldonado participated in 2017 as interpreters.
Students in the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic handle all aspects of representing clients who have fled political, religious or other persecution in their home countries and are seeking asylum in the United States. Since its founding in 2002, the clinic has handled 124 asylum cases to completion. In 115 of those cases, the clinic’s clients were granted asylum or other forms of relief from removal.
The Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center works to provide access to justice for vulnerable immigrants in detention and in the community through legal services, education and advocacy.