Karla McKanders, a fellow at UT’s Center for the Study of Social Justice in the Migration and Refugee Studies group, was recently awarded a SEED grant through UT’s Office of Research and Engagement. The grant sponsors the Immigrant Legal Literacy Project, which she believes will help bring attention to the needs of the immigrant community. McKanders is an associate professor in the College of Law.
“Through our project, people are provided information to understand how the immigration system works,” McKanders stated. “People are beginning to think of forms of relief for which they are eligible. Tennessee has experienced an increase in its immigrant population. The state needs more immigration attorneys.”
The Immigrant Legal Literacy Project is a partnership between the Immigration Clinic at the UT College of Law and the community organization Centro Hispano. The project is designed to identify and support the legal needs of immigrants in Knoxville and surrounding areas. As part of the project, Centro hosts Saturday clinics where law students and local attorneys assist roughly thirty clients with asylum, special immigrant, and juvenile cases.
“Just to talk to a lawyer with experience in a place where they are familiar is comforting,” said Efraim Rodriquez, program coordinator at Centro Hispano. “We are empowering individuals and giving them tools to be active members of society.”
The project gives UT students diverse learning experiences, preparing them for a career in immigration law. Students are able to help with the intake process and serve as translators.
Centro’s next clinic will be held on Saturday, March 15. Students interested in volunteering can contact McKanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.