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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has a long history of working with communities and local police departments regarding immigration laws, policies and procedures.
Recently, clinic students had the opportunity to develop and deliver immigration training in their own backyard to nearly every officer in University Park through a collaboration with Penn State University Police.
Clinic students Berenice Beltrán-Maldonado, a first-year student in the School of International Affairs, and William Hobson, a second-year law student, both had criminology and criminal justice backgrounds in their undergraduate careers. When joining the clinic, the students said it was a natural fit for them to learn more about the intersection of immigration law and law enforcement.
Working with University Police Deputy Chief Thomas Sowerby and Patrol Lt. Edward Delaney and under the supervision of their professor, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, the students created training materials on a variety of topics, including available immigration resources, basic terminology, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), U and T Visas, working with vulnerable populations, and more.
The result was a one-hour training session, held three times during department In-service time, with around 40 officers participating. The presentation and other training materials were also made available to University Police for reference and future hires.
“At University Police, we understand the importance of professional development, and we want to provide our officers with the education, training and tools necessary to be successful, which is why we are excited about our partnership with the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights,” Sowerby said. “We are fortunate to be part of a world-class University where we can take advantage of expertise available to us right here at home.”
Beltrán-Maldonado and Hobson were thrilled by the overall reception to the training and were surprised to hear so many personal experiences regarding immigration or working with immigrants from the officers. Questions and stories in each session helped to evolve content for future sessions and aided the students in figuring out how best to explain the subject matter.
“I really enjoyed working with University Police, and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the relationship that the clinic has developed there,” Hobson said.
Beltrán-Maldonado said, “I look forward to the progress that training like this can make, which includes stronger bonds of trust and confidence and heightened ties to the community and University.”
This partnership is another great example of the community outreach the clinic continues to engage in.
“We are thrilled to partner with the University Police on immigration during such an important time,” said Wadhia. “Inclusion and public safety are vital to immigrants in our community. I am confident that these trainings provided police with the tools necessary to use inclusive language when interacting with the international population and also to take action when an immigrant has been a victim of a crime or trafficking.”
Founded by Wadhia in 2008, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic is one of nine law clinics at Penn State Law that allow students to learn through experience under the guidance of clinical faculty. Under Wadhia’s supervision, students in the clinic engage in community outreach and education on topics such as immigration remedies for victims of crimes and changing immigration policy. The clinic also provides legal support in individual cases of immigrants challenging deportation (removal) or seeking protection through the Department of Homeland Security and in the courts.