Our immigration clinic works with ACCESS Inc. and the Operation Samahan medical-legal clinic in National City to offer assistance to those seeking lawful immigration status, employment verification, and public assistance under provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
This course combines classroom learning with actual experience in the field of immigration. In addition to the two-hour seminar, and in lieu of extensive casebook readings, students spend eight hours a week at the medical-legal clinic assisting with new client intake and working on two assigned cases under the supervision of an ACCESS Inc. immigration attorney.
Through this combined experience, students learn the necessary skills and substantive knowledge needed to represent immigrant victim clients as well as broaden their understanding of issues facing immigrant victims of domestic violence. Specifically, students interview immigrants seeking relief, prepare an immigration case under VAWA or the U visa process and collaborate with social workers and healthcare professionals to address the unique barriers immigrant victims of domestic violence face. During class, students debrief their clinical experiences on assigned cases and learn together.
What Students Learn
Law students, who are not often trained to think like social workers, gain the experience of working with victims who often have difficulty explaining what has happened to them. During the intake process, law students are trained to complete the intake sheets with sensitivity and compassion.
For instance, rather than ask the victim, “do you have any evidence or proof that you were abused?,” which the victim may perceive as being judged or not believed, law students are taught to ask, "have you sought help from any person or agency? Have you called the police, or seen a doctor to treat the injuries, or spoken to anyone about what happened?" This way, the law student is able to listen for cues and create a list of documentation that may help credibly prove her case. If the victim says she did call the police, then the student can ask, "do you have a copy of the report?” If she does not, the student can explain that we can help her obtain a copy for her.
Since law students are assigned two victim immigration cases under the VAWA or U visa process, students also learn how to further develop the relationship of trust with their assigned client. They meet with their clients in their designated office space and hours, completing the forms, gathering documents, and most importantly helping the client tell her story of what happened to her.
About our Clients
Clients referred to the medical-legal clinic are immigrants, mostly women, who are victims of domestic violence. Because of the sensitive nature of these cases, immigrant victims are often referred by ACCESS, Inc.'s network of domestic violence service providers, other community-based agencies, or the Samahan community clinic.
Clients come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of the victims referred are more comfortable speaking their native language, which is often Spanish. Clients also include Filipina, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese women who feel more comfortable visiting a community health center to discuss their legal options and learn about local resources to help them overcome the abuse they suffered. Women from Eastern European countries as well as the Middle East have also visited the clinic in hopes of finding a way out of their situation. For immigrant victims, visiting a setting that does not let their community know that they are having problems in their relationship and have suffered some form of abuse is important.
How Clients can Seek Assistance
Clients seek assistance via referral to the confidential legal intake clinic. The clinic hours are not available to the general public. Clients or advocates can call ACCESS, Inc. at 858-560-0871 for more information.
About ACCESS, Inc.
ACCESS, Inc. was established in 1964 during the War on Poverty to help resettle Southeast Asian refugees from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam during the Vietnam War. ACCESS has become a leader in serving the needs of youth and adults in the San Diego community with workforce development, legal assistance, and education programs.
Since 1997, ACCESS has provided legal immigration assistance and other supportive services to immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Its mission is to address the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in San Diego County, especially transition age, at-risk youth; recent or unassimilated immigrants, and victims of domestic violence, trafficking, or other forms of exploitation, opening doors of opportunity to them by providing counseling, education, case management, legal assistance, career exploration and placement services to assist them to achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence. Learn more at www.access2jobs.org.
Supervising Attorney: Anne S. Bautista '97
Anne S. Bautista is the Legal Program Director for the ACCESS, Inc. VAWA Legal Program. She is an immigration attorney specializing in representing immigrant victims of domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). She began the VAWA Legal Program at ACCESS, Inc. in 1997 and has successfully represented thousands of women and children. Bautista is also an adjunct professor of Law at California Western teaching two courses: Women and Immigration Law, a course which takes a critical look at the effect of immigration laws and policies on women immigrating to the United States, and the Immigration Seminar and Clinical Field Placement: Helping Victims of Domestic Violence.
She received her Juris Doctor degree from California Western and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Bautista has received numerous awards for her work on behalf of victims and survivors and has trained both advocates and students on the protections available to immigrant victims under VAWA.
About Operation Samahan
Operation Samahan is a community-based health and wellness center that has provided services to low-income families and individuals in San Diego County since 1973. Its mission is to build healthier, happier communities together.
With their patients, staff, and community partners, they promote better health and living conditions for all members of the community. They primarily serve the indigent, low-income, uninsured. and underserved individuals and families, by providing high quality, affordable and culturally accessible primary health care, dental care, behavioral health counseling, holistic health promotion and education, and social services. Learn more at www.operationsamahan.org.