Ex. Immigration Defense

Course Information

Course Number
Curriculum Level
Areas of Study
Administrative Law and Public Policy, Clinics, Externships, and Experiential Learning, Human Rights
Additional Attributes
Experiential Credit

Section 001 Information


Section Description

Katherine Buckel and Mia Unger, Lecturers-in-Law
(2 graded academic, 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The Immigration Defense Externship provides students with the unique opportunity to work on removal cases pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an agency which includes the New York Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Students will participate in case strategy and prepare cases for trial. Taught by practicing attorneys of The Legal Aid Society, the Immigration Defense Externship is designed to introduce students to U.S. immigration laws and policies through a combination of lecture, discussion, simulation, and hands-on representation of immigrants facing deportation from the United States. A primary focus of the Externship is the interaction between federal immigration laws and federal and state criminal laws.

The Seminar
The weekly seminars will complement the students' fieldwork with a practice-oriented examination of the interaction between immigration law and criminal law. The seminars cover substantive topics in immigration law, such as challenges to removability and relief from removal. We explore the government's policies and their impact on immigrant communities through class discussions and presentations by guest speakers from the Immigration Court, criminal defense attorneys, and attorneys from Legal Aid's Federal Practice. The seminars also have a skills component, which includes discussion of client interviewing and trial preparation, as well as a mock client interview and a mock immigration hearing. In the seminars, students will have the opportunity to discuss their fieldwork, including ethical challenges and case strategy. The course is graded based on attendance and participation in the seminar, three short reflection papers, and participation in a mock interview and mock hearing. Minor writing credit is available upon consultation.

In the fieldwork placements, students will be expected to devote 15 hours per week. Students will undertake various tasks, which may include interviewing clients and/or witnesses, participating in trial preparation and litigation strategy meetings, researching complex legal issues, drafting affidavits and memoranda of law, and developing direct and cross examination questions. Where possible, students will observe hearings in Immigration Court. Through a comprehensive client-centered approach, students will work with an attorney, and at times with social workers and/or paralegals, to assess, research, and prepare each client's case.

Requirements and Application Process
Enrollment is limited. Open to 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLM students. Skills in languages other than English, especially Spanish, preferred. Exposure to immigration and criminal law preferred.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

School Year & Semester
Fall 2023
WCW 304
Class meets on
  • Wednesday
4:20 pm - 6:10 pm
Method of Evaluation
J.D Writing Credit?
Minor (upon consultation)

Learning Outcomes

  • understanding of the intersection between immigration & criminal law; understanding of ethical and professional issues faced in representing low-income immigrants facing removal from the United States
  • litigation & advocacy skills, including interviewing clients, developing a theory of the case, preparing witness affidavits and testimony and preparing evidence for hearings.

Course Limitations

Instructor Pre-requisites
Instructor Co-Requisites
Recommended Courses
Other Limitations
Admission is by instructor permission during the Externship application period - see the Externship webpage for more information.

Other Sections of Ex. Immigration Defense

Section 002

Back to course search