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University of Akron and International Institute Train Attorneys For Immigration Cases

photo of Elizabeth Knowles
During a training Wednesday, U. of Akron Assistant Law Professor Elizabeth Knowles tells attendees that immigration attorneys not only have to often overcome language barriers, but also find ways to build rapport with clients who've gone through trauma.

The University of Akron’s law school put on a training for attorneys Wednesday who may be interested in pro bono work navigating the complex web of deportation hearings.

Organizers of the training said attorneys want to learn more about immigration law given the large-scale raids that have happened in Northeast Ohio this year.

Attorney Brian Hoffman, who works with the International Institute of Akron, said under President Donald Trump's administration, people are being held in detention longer and have less access to legal aid. And that’s on top of language barriers and an extremely complex legal system.

“The rules of evidence don’t actually apply in immigration court. You don’t actually get discovery. Oftentimes you can’t actually take the Fifth Amendment and refuse to comment on potentially incriminating issues," Hoffman said.

“I can’t help but think, as an advocate and as a lawyer, that if more of these cases had representation, the case law on who gets asylum would be better,” he said.

Hoffman, who coordinates pro bono cases for the International Institute, said the training is part of a collaboration with the university and Catholic Charities of Cleveland.

“The project that we’re working on now, called the Immigration Justice Campaign, is designed to take attorneys who are interested in immigration and taking pro bono cases, but don’t have the experience," Hoffman said, "and pair them with a local mentor, provide them with sample filings and training materials and really help walk them through their first case, with the end goal of really expanding the nationwide capacity to provide pro bono assistance.”

The training was free for lawyers who agreed to take a pro bono case within the next two months from the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.