Pro bono legal assistance for a better humanitarian response.
Supported by local students in the field of law and related areas, the U.S.-Mexico Border Legal Clinic works to protect the rights of migrants and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border through litigation, provision of factual, life-saving information, and legal counseling.
In countries with continuous migration flows, pro bono legal services have often been used to assist migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and internally displaced persons. These projects, particularly on the U.S.-Mexico border, have been critical to this population’s access to justice and rights. In most cases, migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees do not have the means to afford costly legal assistance and yet they are among the most vulnerable when it comes to rights violations.
People who find themselves in a context of mobility are therefore in great need of free legal services to resolve legal concerns and move forward even in sometimes relatively straightforward proceedings to gain access to their rights.
In a context of increasing discrimination and xenophobia, legal representation that advocates for the inclusion of this population not only serves to resolve pending legal matters, providing practical support to people on their difficult journey of displacement, but also establishes a benchmark for more inclusive policies and social actions that support diversity and its potential benefits to society as a whole.
Student involvement in the delivery of legal services to individuals in a mobility context has been shown to provide a unique opportunity for young people to gain valuable professional experience and learn directly about social inclusion issues that will be increasingly important for future generations.
By assisting and learning from migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and internally displaced persons, law students can apply their leadership skills to complex humanitarian situations. The Border Legal Clinic project thus contributes to the professional training of young people, strengthens social cohesion, and creates spaces for protection, reflection, and intercultural dialogue from which future generations of ethical professionals can emerge better prepared.
The Border Legal Clinic project, supported by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), has the following three objectives:
The three principal components of the project are realized in the following ways:
The primary objective of this component is to provide legal assistance and representation to migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and other persons in contexts of mobility in the U.S.-Mexico border region.
Individuals seeking legal assistance can visit DIME’s office in Tijuana, receive telephone assistance, or be reached during the teams’ monthly shelter visits or shelter referrals. In coordination with our partners in USCRI’s San Diego office, legal assistance is provided in both domestic and international legal cases.
In addition, both DIME and USCRI Mexico coordinate with local authorities in Mexico and the United States, as well as other local actors and organizations, to promote and ensure protection at the border.
The student program under the Border Legal Clinic project mobilizes university students from top educational institutions in the border region: the Autonomous University of Baja California, University Iberoamericana Campus Tijuana, CETYS University in Mexicali, and the University of Xochicalco. This is done through social service programs and professional internships.
By involving students in the office, DIME and USCRI Mexico promote their knowledge and skills to contribute to the activities. At the same time, it trains and sensitizes a group of young professionals who can use their experience to actively participate beyond their internship in finding solutions to the challenges faced by the population in situations of mobility at the border.
Despite being located at one of the most important border crossings with the United States, there is a lack of policies, programs, public information, and institutional responses to the challenges and needs of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons.
To address this gap, DIME and USCRI Mexico develop and provide training on the complex topics relating to international migration and protection to relevant stakeholders, such as local authorities. These trainings are based on the highly specialized knowledge of the team and experts in the field and aim to improve the response of those who are in direct contact with migrants and/or make decisions that affect them.
To reach more people, DIME and USCRI Mexico create informational materials and give presentations at migrant shelters. Misinformation is a constant challenge for persons in contexts of mobility at the border. Therefore, access to accurate and up-to-date information is critical so that the people at the border know their options and legal rights. To this end, we have established a network of shelters to reach targeted populations.
The information and advocacy component is also known as the “Know Your Rights” campaign, which is complemented by providing at least 20 events per year.
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