MMLA, ILCM, and Advocates Provide Representation to Hennepin County Residents Facing Deportation

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Hennepin County is now one of only a few regional jurisdictions to fund legal representation of its residents in deportation proceedings. This past summer a new legal defense fund was established by Hennepin County in cooperation with three nonprofit organizations. The grant and the participating organizations — Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA), Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) and the Advocates for Human Rights (Advocates) — aim to provide universal representation to immigration defendants regardless of the merits of their case. Preference is given to people who were transferred from the Hennepin County jail to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

Speaking to the Star Tribune, Peggy Russell, managing attorney with MMLA said, “Many immigrants who are placed in removal proceedings are lawful permanent residents who pay taxes and are at risk of extended detention and separation from their families.” She also noted studies emphasizing the rate of success for immigrants with legal representation in establishing a right to stay in the United States.

Read more at MPR News.

Innovations for Clients: LOON Takes Flight

Legal Organizations Online Network: LOON

Legal Organizations Online Network: LOON

By Betsy Parrell, Supervising Attorney

Starting today, staff from sixteen Minnesota legal services organizations are working toward better coordination and referrals through access to a new online tool: LOON (Legal Organizations Online Network).

As an integral part of the LawHelpMN.org rebuild project, LOON is a password-protected, online database developed to house up-to-date information about legal services available across Minnesota.  Service listings in the database include information about case types and priorities, case acceptance guidelines, clinics, and eligibility criteria. 

LOON aims to improve client referrals by enabling legal services providers to make more accurate referrals amongst each other through access to detailed, real-time data. LOON will also power the referral information that will be available to everyone on the new LawHelpMN.org, once launched.  In addition, because of LOON, staff at individual organizations no longer need to maintain and update their own legal services referral information, which can easily fall out-of-date.  

The organizations currently participating in LOON are:

  • Anishinabe Legal Services

  • Central Minnesota Legal Services

  • Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

  • Judicare of Anoka County

  • Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota

  • Legal Assistance of Dakota County

  • Legal Assistance of Olmsted County

  • Legal Rights Center

  • Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Inc.

  • Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

  • Standpoint

  • The Advocates for Human Rights

  • Tubman

  • Volunteer Attorney Program

  • Volunteer Lawyers Network

These sixteen organizations have password access to LOON, and the ability to update and maintain their own service listings.  For organizations that do not currently have password access such as specialty legal service providers, law libraries, court-based self-help services, bar association referral programs, and community mediation State Support will gradually add their services to LOON and coordinate with them to maintain and update their listings.

State Support is grateful for the expertise shared by staff members of the sixteen participating organizations. Their feedback was used to guide the development of LOON’s technical infrastructure and user interface. Staff from these organizations also worked diligently to update and verify the accuracy of their listings in anticipation of LOON’s launch today. Additionally, over 100 individuals at these organizations registered for trainings offered by State Support on how to search service listings, in order to be prepared to use LOON effectively to make referrals.

Continued coordination and communication will be critical to LOON’s success. Staff members from the participating organizations will need to communicate with each other, and with State Support, to ensure that the accuracy and quality of information in LOON, and the tool itself, can continue to improve. Working together, we can make LOON a robust, reliable tool that helps all of us better serve client needs across the legal services delivery system.

Legal Services For Immigrants Strengthened by Landmark Gift to U of M Law School

On February 6th, the University of Minnesota Law School announced a transformational $25 million gift from the Robina Foundation. The grant—the single largest philanthropic gift in the Law School’s history—will fund the newly named James H. Binger Center for New Americans, establish a James H. Binger Professorship in Clinical Law, and provide Law School student scholarship support.

The gift will provide permanent financial support to the University of Minnesota Law School for the ongoing operations of the James H. Binger Center for New Americans. The Center brings about transformative change by creating a national model for the provision of comprehensive and cohesive legal services for immigrant communities through a variety of means, including improving federal immigration law and policy through impact litigation; protecting detainee rights and improving access to legal representation for refugees and immigrants; educating noncitizens about their legal rights; creating dynamic and comprehensive immigration clinics for students; and collaborating with others on immigration issues. During its four-year pilot program—supported by the Robina Foundation—the Center won a landmark case at the U.S. Supreme Court; won political asylum for clients from around the world; and won release for detained immigrants in Minnesota.

The Center has three law firm partners—Dorsey and Whitney, Faegre Baker Daniels, and Robins Kaplan—and three nonprofit partners—the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and The Advocates for Human Rights.

Founding partners Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid have worked with the Center for the past three years with a specific emphasis on the Center’s detainee rights work. Dean Garry W. Jenkins said, “The Binger Center will leverage a unique collaboration among our clinics, prominent law firms, and respected nonprofit organizations, enabling our exceptional faculty and students to continue to work on landmark immigration reform cases for generations to come.” Read more in the Star Tribune.