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Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Fall 2017 group







Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (CIRC) is a nationally recognized in-house clinic focused on immigration and directed by its founder Professor ​Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

The CIRC provides law students with hands-on clinical training in immigration law through three pillars: community outreach and education, pro bono legal support, and policy work.

At CIR, students engage in community outreach and education on immigration topics such as immigration remedies for victims of crimes, DACA, the travel ban, and immigration enforcement, and in this capacity has worked closely with the State College municipality and local organizations on emerging immigration topics. The CIRC also provides legal support in individual cases of immigrants challenging deportation (removal) or seeking protection by the Department of Homeland Security and in the courts. ​​Since the Presidential election of 2016, the Clinic has reached hundreds of individuals and families and served as a clearinghouse for the community and nationally on changing immigration law and policy.​ The CIRC is a member of Welcoming America, a national movement of organizations and municipal governments interested in making their communities more welcoming to immigrants and refugees. In the policy arena, students produce white papers, practitioner toolkits, and primers of national impact for institutional clients based in Washington D.C., and across the nation. Organizational clients have included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council (AIC), Human Rights First, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), among others. 

Professor Wadhia’s teaching goal is for students to gain the skills required to be effective immigration advocates and attorneys. This requires a combined understanding and appreciation for immigration law, policy, and politics, and the relationships between them. Students have primary responsibility in making case/project-related decisions, reflecting deliberatively on their work, and collaborating with clients to achieve positive results.

2018 marks the 10-year year anniversary of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

New from the Center:

Case Summary: Grace vs. Whitaker, December 21, 2018.
On December 19, 2018, in Grace v. Whitaker, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted relief in the form of a permanent injunction to plaintiffs on their APA and statutory claims with respect to the following credible fear policies, which this Court finds are arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law: (1) the general rule against credible fear claims relating to gang-related and domestic violence victims’ membership in a “particular social group,” as reflected in Matter of A-B- and the Policy Memorandum; (2) the heightened “condoned” or “complete helplessness” standard for persecution, as reflected in Matter of A-B- and the Policy Memorandum; (3) the circularity standard as reflected in the Policy Memorandum; (4) the delineation requirement at the credible fear stage, as reflected in the Policy Memorandum; and (5) the requirement that adjudicators disregard contrary circuit law and apply only the law of the circuit where the credible fear interview occurs, as reflected in the Policy Memorandum. The Court also finds that neither the Policy Memorandum nor Matter of A-B- state an unlawful nexus requirement or require asylum officers to apply discretionary factors at the credible fear stage.”


Joint Interim Rule on Asylum and Presidential Proclamation: What You Need to KnowPenn State Law Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic, December 27, 2018.
This document from the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic explains the new policies governing eligibility for asylum and screening procedures for noncitizens crossing the southern border.



Berks Journal cover thumbnailInside Family Detention: Notes on the Ground by Penn State Law Center for Immigrants Rights' Clinic
From September 30 through October 4, Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic served as advocates for families who are about to undergo their credible or reasonable fear interviews. This publication is a journal of their experiences at Berks.

Press Release


press release thumbnailBack Into the Future of Immigration: Personal Stories by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic
The  Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, in partnership with Penn State University Libraries Open Publishing, has published this e open-access monograph  showcasing personal stories from past and current students of the clinic.

Press Release


Link to presentation slidesInside Family Detention: Stories from the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic
Thursday, November 1 | 4:00-5:30 p.m. | Penn State Law Clinics | Sutliff Auditorium Lewis Katz Building | University Park, PA

Hear from law students and Professor Wadhia about their
experiences with detained families in Berks County Residential
Center. Learn about the law and policy of family detention.


Link to presentation slidesPenn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the Municipality of State College Present: Immigration and Equity Summit
September 17, 2018 | 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. | 2nd Floor Municipal Building | 243 S. Allen Street | State College, PA

To mark Welcoming Week, community leaders shared their views on current immigration policies and the benefits of welcoming everyone into our community. Speakers included Clinic representatives, the Chief of Police, Borough Manager, and an individual impacted by changing immigration policy (see first video below). Immediately following the event, the State College Borough issued two proclamations: one declaring September 16-22, 2018, as Welcoming Week; and the second declaring September 2018 as Hispanic Heritage Month (see second video below). For more information, see the Immigration Summit Fact Sheet and local (WTAJ) news coverage of the event.

Welcoming Week Proclamation - Full Text

Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation - Full Text

Image links to video of the Immigration Summit



New USCIS Guidance on Unlawful Presence: What Students Need to Know

Link to full documentThis document from the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic explains the latest policy memorandum, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on August 9, 2018, relating to the accrual of unlawful presence for F (student), J (exchange visitor), and M (vocational student) nonimmigrants. This fact sheet focuses on F (student) nonimmigrants. Updated September 13, 2018.


Status of DACA: September 2018 (infographic)

This document from Penn State Law Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic includes updated information on DACA status.





Litigation on DACA: What We Know

This document from Penn State Law Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic includes updated information on DACA litigation in federal courts.




For more information and resources, visit our Immigration After the Election page.

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