Faculty Profiles

Joseph Berra

Joseph Berra

Clinical and Experiential Project Director
B.A. St. Louis University, 1981
M.Div. Universidad Centroamericana, 1990
M.A. University of Texas at Austin, 1994
J.D. St. Mary’s University School of Law, 1997

LAW 773 - Immigrants' Rights Policy Clinic

Immigrants’ Rights addresses the consequences of immigration or citizenship status. For example, are undocumented immigrants eligible for state-run health care and other public benefits? Are undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state public college tuition rates, for occupational licenses, and for driver’s licenses? Are they protected by wage and hour laws and other workplace protections, or is their participation in the workforce subject to criminal penalties? Are local police involved in enforcement of federal immigration laws?

These and other immigrants’ rights questions are hotly contested, especially at the state and local level. Some state and local governments have taken steps to integrate unauthorized migrants into local and regional communities even though they lack lawful immigration status. Some states and localities have become involved in immigration enforcement. This extensive state and local activity offers rich opportunities for policy work in a clinical setting.

The classroom component of this Clinic will cover key topics in a traditional Immigrants’ Rights course and devote classroom time to skills development. Clinic projects will involve you directly in law reform, working in teams of several students that will collaborate closely with both professors and nonprofit attorneys at one or more nonprofit organizations based in Los Angeles.

Immigration Law (Law 331) (offered in the fall) or its equivalent is a prerequisite.

This is a graded four-unit course, by letter grade (A to F). Half of your grade will be based on class attendance, preparation for class, completion of readings and assignments, and productive engagement in class discussions. Because this is a small-group, intensive course, your active engagement is essential for both your own learning experience and for the successful functioning of the course as a group enterprise.

The other half of your grade will be based on your work on Clinic projects, especially on your effort, timely preparation, ability to work collaboratively as part of the legal team, and application of skills and knowledge from the Clinic’s classroom component. Much of your work on Clinic projects can be done on campus, but you will need to travel inside Los Angeles to meet with collaborating attorneys, clients, and other stakeholders. It is very unlikely that your work in this Clinic will include formal appearances before legislative bodies or in court.

The classroom component will meet for two hours weekly. Work on Clinic projects, in addition to preparing for and attending classroom sessions, will require a substantial time commitment—at least ten hours per week, but often more, depending the timing and urgency of particular matters.

You will work on Clinic projects in teams, organized as much as possible based on your schedules, to maximize opportunities for you to work together without missing any classes. Teams will coordinate and lead a weekly team meeting with the instructors, and students can expect to meet periodically with instructors to assess their acquisition of skills in the clinical setting. Please reserve Fridays for meetings with collaborating attorneys, clients, and stakeholders, but unavoidable exceptions may require you to miss sessions of other classes.

We will follow Hiroshi Motomura, Immigration Outside the Law (Oxford University Press 2014).  Some readings will be from T. Alexander Aleinikoff, David A. Martin, Hiroshi Motomura, Maryellen Fullerton & Juliet P. Stumpf, Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy (West 8th ed. 2016). Other substantive and skills-focused readings will be on the MyLaw course website.