Long Island immigrants facing deportation soon will have a new resource to aid their defense, with Hofstra University’s law school opening a clinic to help some make their cases before immigration authorities and to craft proposals on the policy debate, the school announced Wednesday.
Hofstra’s Deportation Defense Clinic, to be funded by private donors, will seek to protect vulnerable immigrants as President Donald Trump’s administration pursues immigration enforcement on various fronts.
The school said the initiative will launch in the next few months and will be the first of its kind in Nassau and Suffolk counties — where an estimated 99,000 immigrants without legal status reside, according to estimates by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
School officials said the clinic will carry a caseload of about 10 clients per week, focusing on impending deportation orders.
A. Gail Prudenti, interim dean of Hofstra’s law school, said, “The newly formed Deportation Defense Clinic . . . is a timely response to the current pressing demand for legal services on Long Island.”
She said the effort is consistent with other Hofstra clinics as “a place where people can go when they are seeking to access justice,” while training students “to be better-equipped lawyers.”
President Stuart Rabinowitz said in a statement that the defense clinic continues the institution’s “long history of representing immigrants” and deepens its “commitment to this community.” Hofstra did not disclose the initiative’s cost.
The clinic will be one of 12 programs combining study and practice under the supervision of law professors. It will be the school’s fourth initiative focused on immigration, adding to clinics aiding asylum applicants, young immigrants and those filing immigration applications and petitions.
The clinic is to begin accepting clients this spring, after Hofstra hires a senior attorney and one junior attorney. Up to 20 law students will enroll each semester, the university said.
Theo Liebmann, clinical programs director at the university’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law, said his office has experienced “a significant increase in calls” since the 2016 presidential campaign in which Trump made immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his agenda.
“The need for strong legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants has never been more intense than it is now,” Liebmann said.
Many immigrants, he said, face an imminent threat: “They can literally be taken, put on a plane and sent to a country that they have been trying to escape.”
Mishal Pahrand, 24, a third-year law student, said she looks forward to joining the clinic.
“Long Island was lacking the services to help these people in deportation defense proceedings,” said Pahrand, 24, of Massapequa and Farmingdale. “The people who are here . . . they don’t want to break the laws. They are here because they have to be here” as they flee threats in their countries.
The Trump administration has started to implement measures to remove immigrants living in the country without legal status and those involved in criminal cases, while seeking to block entry from nations deemed potential terror threats.
In three separate executive orders, Trump proposed construction of a wall at the country’s border with Mexico; the expansion of the criteria for immigrants who could be removed as criminals; and the imposition of travel restrictions, primarily for immigrants, visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations.
On Monday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed that more than 680 immigrants described as “convicted criminal aliens and other enforcement priorities” were arrested last week in fugitive enforcement operations in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and San Antonio.
The New York Field Office for ICE confirmed that 41 were from “the five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding areas,” but denied reports of checkpoints or sweeps.
A new analysis by TRAC Immigration, a data clearinghouse at Syracuse University, found the number of ICE arrests in targeted operations averaged 250 per week last year, a lower figure than those reported for last week.
Susan Long, TRAC’s co-director and professor of managerial statistics at Syracuse, said “that certainly appears to be an increase,” though it’s too early to tell if that pace will be sustained.
Hofstra’s involvement was welcomed by immigrants and their advocates who are bracing for the potential impact of Trump’s policies.
“We are at a moment of unprecedented and extreme terror for the immigrant communities,” said Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, who also is an immigration law professor at Hofstra.
“They are worried, because they’re seeing around the country an attack on their communities by a president who apparently sees the tearing apart of families as the fodder for press releases and tweets,” he said.