Miami Law Starts New Immigration Legal Assistance Program

Immigration clinic partners with ACLU, UF, and FSU law clinics to provide representation at a north Florida immigration detention facility.
Miami Law Starts New Immigration Legal Assistance Program
Immigration Clinic students (left to right) Ivan Rudd 2L, Alejandra Gonzales 2L, Daniel Valentin 2L, Christin Swanepoel 2L, Benjamin Brooks 2L, & Carolina Gonzalez 2L

The University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida join the Florida State University Farmworker & Immigration Rights Clinic and the University of Florida Immigration Clinic to create a legal assistance program to serve individuals detained in ICE custody at the Baker County Detention Center. 

For many years, detained immigrants have reported inhumane treatment at Baker and a lack of access to counsel due largely to its remote location in the northern part of the state. The program seeks to assist immigrants at Baker by providing information about rights and immigration law, legal screenings and advice, assistance in securing release from detention, referrals to pro bono attorneys, and investigating complaints of mistreatment in detention. 

"We have known about poor conditions at Baker for years, but it has been difficult to do anything about it. Last semester, six students and I traveled to Baker and talked to well over a hundred detained individuals. Based on what we heard, we felt compelled to continue working on improving the situation at the jail," said Professor Rebecca Sharpless, associate dean for experiential learning and director of Miami Law's immigration clinic. "We are thrilled to be working in coalition with others to address the situation and are thankful to the Florida Bar Foundation, which recently awarded the clinic a grant to support our detention work."

The organizations have formed the Baker Legal Assistance Program to ensure that all immigrants at Baker have a better understanding of their immigration case and access to resources to protect their rights, navigate the immigration system, and fight for their release and status in the United States.

The program will launch in the Fall of 2022. It will begin with three separate in-person "Know Your Rights" presentations in September and October, which one-on-one legal consultations with detained individuals will follow. The three law schools will provide case assessments, take on immigration cases pro bono, where appropriate, and provide pro bono legal assistance from a list of attorneys from northern Florida. 

The ACLU of Florida will assist the law schools by providing consultations to detained individuals regarding any complaints of mistreatment during their confinement. They will advocate on those individuals' behalf to address ongoing abuses and injustice at Baker. Detained individuals will have the opportunity to sign up for any of the three in-person legal consultations this fall, scheduled for September 9, September 30, and October 14, 2022. 

The ACLU of Florida maintains the Florida Detention Database for more information about the program, including for individuals who need to report a complaint regarding their conditions of confinement or to schedule an initial consultation regarding an immigration case. The program also needs additional pro bono attorneys through Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director with the ACLU of Florida, at

Established in the fall of 2009, the Immigration Clinic provides a challenging opportunity for students to advocate on behalf of immigrants in various complex immigration proceedings. In addition to helping individual clients, students collaborate with other immigrant rights groups on projects that reform the law and advance the cause of social justice for immigrants.

Students can apply to join a Miami Law legal clinic in the spring 2023 semester for the following year.

Read more about Immigration Law at Miami Law