SIU Law Group Receives Grant to Continue Help for Immigrants

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By Sam Smith

JACKSON CO. - A program at SIU that helps immigrants facing deportation will be able to continue thanks to a new grant. The initiative provides legal information for immigrants who might otherwise have nowhere to turn.

The Immigration Detention Program at SIU is getting a $2,800 grant. It's the most they've ever received. Volunteers say it's deserved. Especially considering their growing number of clients.

Volunteers with SIU's Immigration Detention Program have been traveling to the Tri-County Detention Center for five years. The group includes law professor Cindy Buys, a translator, and 10-12 law student volunteers. Meg Madden has been a part of the program for three years.

"My mom is from the Phillipines and my grandparents were from Ireland so immigration issues are always kind of important to me and my family. So I thought it would be a good experience," says law student Meg Madden.

Madden says she's interviewed clients from countries including Mexico, Russia, and China. The students can't offer legal assistance but they issue "Know Your Rights" packets which come in six different languages.

"They have a greater need for some expert advice as compared to US citizens who get in trouble with the law," says Law Professor Cindy Buys.

For some inmates, this is the only guidenace they get. The grant money will allow volunteers to make more copies of their packets and make more trips to Ullin. Something Buys says is necessary considering the number of inmates has more than doubled in the past five years.

"They are always very grateful that someone takes the time to come to give them information and I think often times because they are not from this area they feel like no one knows that they're here," says Buys.

The inmates aren't the only ones benefitting from the grant money. The program also offers law students important, hands-on learning.

"A lot of times as a first year you do mock interviews with other students and your professors but the immigration detention project is one of the best ways to get real life experience," says Madden.

The volunteers make the trip to Ullin on the first Tuesday of every month. The University of Illinois has a similar program that covers the Jefferson County Detention Center.
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