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Immigration Clinic in Mira Mesa

Immigration Clinic for Victims of Domestic Violence

Our immigration clinic works with ACCESS Inc. 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 assisting with new client intakes and working on two assigned cases under the supervision of the 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 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 the case. If the victim did call the police, then the student can ask, "do you have a copy of the report?” If the client does not, the student can explain that we can help obtain a copy .

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 for the first meeting at Access ( socially distanced) in their designated office space and completing the forms, gathering documents, and most importantly help the client tell their story of what happened to them.

About our Clients

Clients referred to the 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, or other community-based agencies .

Clients come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and countries of origin. As advocates we discuss their legal options and share local resources to help them overcome the abuse they suffered.

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

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.

Testimonials from immigration clinic students.

“Participating in the Immigration Law Clinic gives you the opportunity to help a survivor of domestic and sexual violence navigate through the complex process of obtaining legal status in the United States. As a student, I am aware of how intricate Immigration Law is, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it may be for someone who has experienced years of trauma. In this clinic, you are given the opportunity to become the client's advocate and support them in the very daunting process of retelling their stories in efforts to obtain legal status.

Moreover, it is also important to note that this clinic is taught by a professor who actively works with victims of domestic and sexual violence. Professor Bautista is a very knowledgeable attorney and has been practicing Immigration Law for over 20 years. You will gain valuable insight from her experience. This clinic has been one of the best experiences of my law school years. My participation has reinforced my desire to become an Immigration Attorney and provide legal support to indigent communities. I know I will carry with me the legal skills I learned through this clinic as I begin my career as a lawyer.” - 3L Student (Fall 2020)

"The immigration clinic in itself offers such an insightful look into the complexity that is our immigration system. Through the classroom and clinic component, you get a true sense of not only policies and laws but rather how they intertwine and affect the lives of many individuals. It is through this interconnection that I truly found a greater understanding of our immigration system. Being a part of such a dedicated and astonishing clinic was simply an experience unlike any other." -Franky Gomez, 3L