Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic
Mike Wishnie, Muneer Ahmad, Annie Lai
Students in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) represent immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, and other matters. The clinic docket includes cases at all stages of legal proceedings in Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. District Court, the Second Circuit, and before Connecticut state agencies and courts. Its non-litigation work includes the representation of grassroots organizations, labor unions, and other groups in regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters. All students handle at least one litigation and one non-litigation matter, and have the opportunity to explore multiple practice areas. The WIRAC seminar meets weekly and is centered on a practice-oriented examination of advocacy on behalf of workers, immigrants, and social movements, and an extended analysis of community and social justice lawyering.
Among the matters that WIRAC has handled:
- Representation of the “Danbury 11,” a group of day laborers arrested in an illegal undercover sting operation in Danbury, Connecticut, in their pending removal proceedings and a federal civil rights suit, and representation of community groups in related Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.
- Representation of 30 persons arrested in 2007 immigration raids in New Haven, in their pending removal proceedings and in the development of federal civil rights litigation, and representation of community groups in related federal and state FOIA suits.
- Development and implementation of know-your-rights presentations to community organizations and to immigration detainees confined in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
- Successfully challenging a mandatory no-bond provision of federal immigration law as applied in the case of a legal permanent resident (LPR) from Haiti with a single possessory drug conviction, and winning client’s release on a writ of habeas corpus.
- Supporting worker organizing initiatives, including the United Automobile Workers (UAW) in its campaign to organize gaming employees at the Foxwoods Casino and the Connecticut Center for a New Economy (CCNE) in developing and advocating for progressive reforms to the Hartford and New Haven living wage ordinances.
- Representing the Hartford Immigrant Rights Coalition (HIRC) in a successful effort to persuade the Hartford Common Council and Mayor to enact the nation’s strongest confidentiality ordinance regarding immigration status information and to prohibit local police from enforcing federal immigration laws.
- Successfully representing 12 Guatemalan H-2B workers trafficked to Connecticut and forced to labor in a commercial nursery outside Hartford.
- Cooperating with farm worker advocates to map agricultural employment in Connecticut and develop programs for outreach and advocacy on behalf of immigrant workers in tobacco, nursery, dairy, and other agricultural sectors
- Representation in pending federal wage-and-hour cases against three restaurants where employers subjected workers to unlawful coercion and workplace and living conditions, and paid substandard wages.