This spring, 36 students and 13 volunteer presenters from a variety of organizations, faiths, backgrounds, and states across the country gathered at Trinity International University outside Chicago to learn about immigration law and discuss how to serve the vulnerable immigrants living in all of our communities. This month on our website we are going to feature blogs, stories, and pictures from some of the staff and students involved in IMMIGRANT PATHWAY Institute (IPI) 2012. Before we get to that, though, you could probably use some background.
What is IPI?
IPI is a 40-hour immigration law class specifically designed for people who work with low-income immigrants through churches and non-profit organizations. It was created by Immigrant Hope and World Relief to train the staff at our faith-based immigration resource centers, but we hope that it will serve hundreds of people from other organizations as well. We have had two sessions-July 2011 and May 2012-with 74 total students.
Why did we create IPI?
Immigrant Hope, and World Relief for that matter, have plenty of work to do just offering legal services, why are we spending type and resources training legal staff? Doesn’t anyone offer the training you need already?
Well, the answer is a little bit involved, but I think it’s important to understanding what we’re trying to accomplish here, so bear with me. When normal (read: non-attorney) people like me want to offer immigration advice, we need a specific certification that requires a certain level of training. It needs to be much less expensive/intensive than law school; churches and non-profits don’t have anything near the kind of time and money necessary for that. It needs to cover every kind of case that we might encounter, but should focus on the simple, family-based cases that we will typically see serving low-income clients. It needs to cover legal ethics and how to run a law office. Very few trainings met all of those requirements. Only one covered all of them in a single, week-long class, and it fills up quickly.
Equally important is the biblical component; only IPI is designed for faith-based organizations, includes daily devotional speakers, and features discussions on biblical ethics in immigration practice.
Ultimately, it is fruitless to set up church-based legal counseling centers if the workers cannot easily get the training they need to flourish. IPI has met that need, and given us a great venue for identifying and developing future leaders and partners.
Stay tuned through September for more blog posts from me and Alex (our Executive Director) about the class, stories from some of our favorite students, and more!