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A day of free workshops will help community members with immigration questions

 The brown and gray facade of  the George William Hopper Law Library, on an overcast day.
Suraj Singareddy
Wyoming Public Media
The George William Hopper Law Library at the University of Wyoming College of Law

The University of Wyoming’s Civil Legal Services Clinic offers pro-bono legal services to those who can’t afford them. On August 3, the clinic will host a day of free workshops to help community members with the legalities of immigration. There will also be volunteer attorneys available to answer quick questions.

Ana Rodriguez, a UW law student, is the creator of this event. She came up with the idea after volunteering with the clinic at an event in Fort Washakie. Rodriguez realized that many people were coming with questions about immigration, but some quick research revealed that there were very few immigration attorneys in the state.

“There's maybe, like, three or four immigration attorneys in the state,” she said. “And then immigration advocacy groups are very few and far between. So if you're an immigrant in the state of Wyoming, and you don't already have resources, and you don't have the money to pay for it, you're kind of out of luck.”

Wyoming also doesn’t have an immigration court, which means Wyomingites are required to travel to Denver for immigration hearings. This is despite 3.4 percent of Wyoming’s population being first-generation immigrants. In some cities, like Laramie, that percentage is even higher at 7.7 percent.

For Rodriguez, making legal immigration services more accessible is a mission of personal significance.

“I'm an immigrant, my parents are immigrants. We came here from Mexico, so we went through the immigration process ourselves,” she said. “So not only just seeing the lack of resources, but experiencing the lack of resources…that had more of a meaning than just an immigration clinic.”

After coming up with the idea for the event, Rodriguez reached out to multiple immigration attorneys and immigration advocacy groups, such as Immigrant Hope, who agreed to partner with the clinic on the event.

The workshops will cover topics like obtaining citizenship, family-based immigration, humanitarian visas and more. They will run from 3:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne.

Matt Misslin is the student director of the Civil Legal Services Clinic. He said this event is a return to the clinic’s roots.

“We kind of started out as directed towards immigration, and we've evolved and split off and divided since then. But it's great to be kind of getting back to it,” he said.

Misslin and Rodriguez both see this clinic as part of a statewide push to make legal services more available to all.

“Marginalized groups and people of color — the system isn't built for them. The system is built to oppress and marginalize them further and keep them out,” said Rodriguez. “And so I think that's a huge problem all throughout the country, but especially in Wyoming, with the lack of attorneys and the lack of resources.”

Rodriguez and the clinic see this event as part of the solution to that problem. If it receives enough attendance, they hope to offer more services like this in the future.

Suraj Singareddy is originally from Atlanta, GA, and is a rising junior at Yale University. He's currently an English major with a minor in computer science. He also helps run the Yale Daily News' podcast department, writes for a science-fiction magazine called Cortex, and likes to do different theatre-y stuff around campus. He also loves to read comics and graphic novels in his free time, and is always looking for book recommendations!
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