USD Immigration Clinic & Mulvaney Center Provide Virtual DACA Forum to Students & Community, Furthering Clinic’s Free Services

USD Immigration Clinic & Mulvaney Center Provide Virtual DACA Forum to Students & Community, Furthering Clinic’s Free Services

The University of San Diego’s Legal Clinics, in partnership with Alliance San Diego, hosted a free, virtual DACA community forum last month for more than 20 participants. The forum provided a comprehensive overview of information about DACA policy updates, eligibility requirements under the Biden administration and also how to connect with the USD Immigration Clinic.

USD’s Toreros Dream, a private student organization with a goal of providing support to students who identify as DACAmented/Undocumented, developed the idea for the forum and helped with a large part of the outreach for the event. 

“Connecting the dots that this is part of the support network that we’re offering to our own DACA and undocumented families on campus and then making that resource available to the broader community was one of the objectives of the forum,” said Maria Silva, Director of Community Partnerships at USD's Mulvaney Center.

The virtual event was just a glimpse of the myriad of free legal services offered by the University of San Diego to the greater community. The University of San Diego offers free legal services and assistance for lower income individuals.  These free services are known as USD Legal Clinics and provide assistance in areas such as tax, immigration, education and disability, worker’s rights, veterans and many more. 

The USD Immigration Clinic is one of more than a dozen free legal clinics at the University of San Diego that offer assistance to underserved members of society while providing opportunities for students to learn first-hand from highly skilled attorneys and interact directly with actual clients.  

Sandra Wagner, supervising attorney for USD’s Immigration Clinic, shared how there are daily changes in immigration policies, especially during a presidential administration transition, which requires a constant stream of communication for updating clients on new regulations. 

“People hear of immigration in the news or social media and they think all the issues are solved since the election. We have to manage public expectations and current client expectations of what’s real with the change of an administration,” said Wagner.

Being a legal intern with USD Legal Clinics is a competitive opportunity for USD School of Law students to get hands-on training by carrying their own caseloads and helping the community directly. From Fall 2019 to Fall 2020, 20 student Immigration Clinic legal interns logged 2,819 hours and provided free legal services to clients, with an estimated monetary value of $493,325. 

“It’s not just about providing free services to the community but also the USD legal clinics are pretty rare if you look at the clinical programs of other law schools. Our clinics function as a fully operational law firm, and we treat the students as associate attorneys. The students have their own caseload, conduct the intakes, do the legal analysis, all the case work, and take care of their own case management. The legal interns are really learning what it’s like to actually practice law - to actually carry a caseload and do that work yourself,” said Elaine Giesbrecht, Immigration Staff Attorney at USD Legal Clinics and USD School of Law alumna. 

“Working at the clinic has been the highlight of my law school experience so far,” said Nicholas Paúl. 

Paúl is a USD School of Law student who works at the Immigration Clinic as a legal intern. He shared how his experience working in the clinic has solidified his hope to become an immigration attorney one day. 

“Working at the clinic has been the highlight of my law school experience so far. For me, it’s a reminder of why I came to law school. I grew up here in San Diego in the South Bay so actually working with real folks in the community, working with real people, and helping them apply [for DACA] has grounded me in a lot of ways. It’s given me a chance to step away from the legal theory and doctrine of classes and work with real-life clients,” said Nicholas Paúl, USD Immigration Clinic legal intern. 

While the team has provided thousands of hours of free legal services to the community, the team shared that there are still many needs to be met within the community, including the cost of filing fees and reaching an even wider group.  “We provide a huge service, but there is still a sizable cost when it comes to filing these applications,” said Paúl. Alongside this work, the clinic is expanding their services after receiving a grant in 2019 to help survivors of domestic violence who may be eligible for immigration relief based on those experiences.

For those interested in learning more about the USD Immigration Clinic, you can contact their team here. 


Elena Gomez
(619) 260-2739