News Releases

Firm plays leading role in the formation and launch of the Minnesota Immigration Project

09.23.11

The Minnesota Immigration Project (MIP) was launched on Wednesday September 21 in Chief Judge Michael Davis’ chambers in the federal courthouse in Minneapolis. Its purpose is to study ways to increase pro-bono legal representation to low-income immigrants, in asylum and other immigration matters. There is a disturbing trend that shows immigrants in Minnesota are less likely to have legal representation in their immigration hearings and more likely to be denied asylum than the national average. Immigrants, including the very poor, have no right to court-appointed defense counsel. 

The project is only the second of its kind in the United States. A similar study group began in New York City in 2008 under the guidance of the Hon. Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Learning of the New York study group, and with encouragement from Judge Katzmann, DeAnne Hilgers developed the plan for the Minnesota project, enlisted members and, with Candee Goodman’s help, brought the Project to fruition. Over the past nine months, more than 20 prominent members of the Minnesota legal community have been enlisted to participate. 

The project is led by the Hon. Michael Davis, chief judge of the United States District Court for the State of Minnesota. Other members include the Hon. Donovan Frank, the Hon. Tony Leung, and the Hon. Jeffrey Keyes of the federal District Court in Minnesota, the Hon. Kristin Olmanson of Minnesota’s Immigration Court, and representatives from the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association’s Pro Se Project, the American Immigration Lawyers Association for the Minnesota-Dakotas chapter, the University of Minnesota Law School’s immigration clinic, four of the largest law firms in Minnesota, two immigration boutique law firms and three non-profit agencies. 

Hilgers says, “The goal of the Project is to increase legal representation of poor immigrants who have no right to a court-appointed attorney, yet suffer draconian consequences if they fail to negotiate immigration laws correctly. If an immigrant so much as misses a single hearing, he or she is subject to removal. We used to call it deportation. Whatever you call it, it can mean they will be separated from their spouse and children in Minnesota, job loss, and being removed to a country they never knew or a country in which their life or safety is in danger. Having legal counsel even for a single hearing will lead to better outcomes for immigrants, their families, and the community.” 

The next meeting of the Minnesota Immigration Project is scheduled for late October 2011.

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LaFromboise, Antoine J.
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