UCLA Law Launches Center for Immigration Law and Policy

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Author’s note: this article has been updated with a quote from UCLA Law Dean Jennifer Mnoonkin. The interview was conducted after the article was published.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) announced last week that they will be opening a Center for Immigration Law and Policy with a $5 million donation from alumna Alicia Miñana and her husband, Rob Lovelace.

“With this center we intend to become a national hub for new ideas, policies and leaders to address the challenges in immigration law,” said UCLA Law Dean Jennifer Mnoonkin told Revolution English. “I hope we can help play a role in developing thoughtful immigration policies that will help our city, our state, and our nation, and that our students can also have the chance to use their fledgling legal skills to help immigrants with legal needs.” 

The center is meant to help immigrants navigate the system by hosting conferences and symposia featuring top academics and publishing policy reports. Mnoonkin hopes that with the planned training for judges, policy papers and gatherings, UCLA Law will play an even stronger role by “[developing] lawyers who will be leaders and to advance legal policy and scholarship.” The Center will also work with Southern California organizations specializing in immigration law and create a number of training opportunities for lawmakers.

The year 2019 was a tough year for immigrants, especifically asylum seekers, policy-wise. Most notably were Trump’s administration’s cap on refugees admittance and the implementation of the Public Charge rule, which allows certain immigrants who take help from the government or can’t show that they won’t be a “charge” for the state to be denied visas or green cards. 

“The United States immigration system is broken and in crisis, and around the globe the challenge related to forced migration and political instability are having profound effects on people, economies and nation,” Mnoonkin said. “Our faculty members in immigration and human rights, as well as our students, are focused increasingly on using their skills, knowledge and passion to identify new and productive ways to address these challenges.”

The project will join other UCLA immigration programs, like the Immigrant Family Legal Clinic, which is the only immigration law clinic in a public school in the country,  to help manage the unprecedented number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., as well as aid them in navigating the changing U.S. immigration policy. 

“Being from an immigrant family myself, I feel a deep sense of responsibility and empathy toward immigrant families who want to make a better life and for the need in this country to be inclusive of those who for political, social or economic reasons struggle in their countries to find democracy and equality,” Miñana said in the university’s press release. “UCLA Law’s faculty expertise and track record of developing leaders and innovations in immigration law and policy put it in the perfect position to become a still-greater force for justice at a crucial time.”

“We are thrilled to provide additional resources to help the school deepen its impact and develop new initiatives in this area, and to train UCLA Law students to excel at the forefront of the next generation of immigration policymakers and scholars.”

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.