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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 23, 2005

Law Students Provide Legal Service To Abuse Victims Who Are Immigrants

University of Iowa law students are helping survivors of domestic abuse apply for lawful immigration status using a federal law that entitles victims of some violent crimes to apply for immigration status.

The law allows women, men and children who are abuse victims to self-petition for their immigration status, without being dependent on their abusive spouse, partner or parent, said Jessica Taylor, a third-year law student who coordinates the program. She said that these legal remedies could eventually lead to permanent residency and citizenship.

"This partnership allows law students to earn on the job experience and provides a valuable service to the state," said Taylor.

The partnership includes 22 law students who provide the legal services. The program is directed by the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), located in Des Moines, while the Iowa City Domestic Violence Intervention Program is helping to provide training and local office space for the students. Naomi Leiserowitz, an ICADV attorney, said the statewide organization turned to the law students when federal funding cuts forced them to close their Iowa City office and eliminate its two staff attorneys. She said the organization had about 400 clients statewide before the cuts.

"This collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Law has enabled us to once again aid immigrant survivors of domestic violence in eastern Iowa and provide this necessary public service," she said.

The law students each receive six hours of classroom training from the ICADV and work four or five hours a week on cases. In return they receive academic credit and valuable real-life training in learning in how to work with clients, preparing petitions and applications for immigration status, learning about domestic abuse and immigration law and gain practical lawyering experience, Taylor said.

Work with clients, however, is not the only opportunity available, Leiserowitz said. Much of what ICADV does is create alliances with community agencies such as police, social services and prosecutors. Students can also help prepare training materials and give presentations to these agencies.

The federal law that allows for such petitions is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 that created a self-petition targeted for battered spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) of 2000 created the U Visa, intended for victims of violent crimes including domestic abuse and sexual assault who cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

For more information or referrals to the program, contact Leiserowitz at 515-244-8028.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.