The Class of 2023: Responding to the Community’s Extraordinary Need

Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer (center) and Attorney Fellow Nicole Medved (left) with several Class of 2023 students at the 3L Class Gift Toast event in May. Photo by David Morrill.

The William & Mary Law School Class of 2023 exceeded every measure for a class. This year, more students than ever before enrolled in Immigration Clinic I and II and  all students enrolled in Clinic I in the Fall of 2022 chose to enroll in Clinic II, continuing their work in the Clinic in the Spring of 2023. 

With the increased enrollment, the Clinic filed more applications for permanent immigration status and work authorization than any other year before. In total, the Clinic submitted more than 95 motions, applications, and petitions during the 2022-2023 Academic Year.

Over the course of the year, students enrolled in the Clinic represented immigrants in Hampton Roads from all over the world on a variety of immigration matters, including affirmative and defensive asylum, U Visas for victims of crime, applications for Temporary Protected Status, petitions for the Removal of Conditions on Lawful Permanent Residency, and naturalization. In their casework, students spent hours preparing client interviews, conducting client interviews through an interpreter, drafting affidavits, motions, and briefs, and researching country conditions. In addition to their case work, students wrote blog posts to educate the public about immigration law and the Clinic’s work.  

This year marks many firsts for the Clinic. In addition to preparing filings and research, students attended or appeared on behalf of Clinic clients in an astounding 11 USCIS interviews and DOJ hearings in the Fall and Spring semesters. For the first time this Spring, Clinic students have appeared at asylum interviews before the Arlington Asylum Office, representing individuals and families from Afghanistan who are seeking permanent safety in the United States. This Spring was also the first opportunity for Clinic students to appear before the Department of Homeland Security in their Norfolk Field Office for green card interviews.

Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer (center) and Attorney Fellow Nicole Medved (far right) with Immigration Clinic I students on their last day of class (Spring 2023).

Students in the Immigration Clinic were on the front lines of responding to Afghans’ need to maintain lawful status while other applications remain pending. On average, Afghan clients’ petitions for lawful status through asylum or lawful permanent residency have been pending for 270 days with no final answer, with some applications pending well over a year. While clients are waiting on these final decisions, Clinic students filed over 50 applications for Temporary Protected Status and accompanying work authorization to help bridge the gap between humanitarian parole and permanent status in the United States.

The Class of 2023 also celebrated important victories for Clinic clients, including obtaining lawful permanent residency for a child whose documents were lost in the fall of Kabul and ensuring that the daughters of a domestic violence survivor from Central America were able to join her here in the United States. Students also celebrated when the fee waivers that they prepared were approved, which saved clients over $11,000 this academic year.

“Once again, the students in the Immigration Clinic have gone above and beyond,” said Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer.  “The numbers, which are staggering, speak for themselves. And importantly, with every number, there is a human story. There are lives changed. And not just those of our clients, but also of our students. These students are leaving W&M Law having done hard work and having grown in their professional skills and their professional identities in profound ways that they will take with them in their work and personal lives. I am so proud of them.”

Special thanks to the Class of 2023 for their dedication to the rights of immigrants in Hampton Roads. We are appreciative for your work for our community and for your dedication as the next generation of advocates.