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Fellowship awarded to Loyola staff attorney to aid immigrants in New Orleans

September 26, 2008

A plan to strengthen legal choices for the growing post-Katrina Latino population in New Orleans will soon be implemented at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Equal Justice America awarded its first Legal Services Fellowship for a graduate of Columbia Law School in New York to Laila Hlass, who joined the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at the College of Law in August as a staff attorney.

The two-year, $80,000 fellowship was established for a recent Columbia Law graduate to develop a project with a civil legal assistance program serving low-income communities. Hlass, in conjunction with professors Hiroko Kusuda and Luz Molina in the law clinic, designed a project to strengthen the immigrant community by providing direct representation; creating sustainable pro bono partnerships; increasing awareness of immigration remedies; building the network of existing advocates; and empowering detained immigrants to advocate for themselves.

Hlass, a Long Beach, Miss. native, was eager to get back to the region after Hurricane Katrina.

“With this fellowship, I will be part of an effort to not only restore my community to where it once was, but to help it grow and become a place that demands more justice and equality, a place that welcomes all of its residents, regardless of color, income, sex or nationality,” Hlass said.

“I chose Loyola because the most experienced immigration attorneys in the state are at the clinic, and I wanted to make sure I had good supervision, so I’d be as effective an advocate as possible.”

Legal services in the New Orleans area are severely limited for immigrants. Many face challenges such as wage theft, unsafe work environments, racism and criminal victimization. Seeking justice is not an option for fear of being reported to authorities, according to Hlass.

Since 1993, Equal Justice America has been putting law students, including more than 90 Columbia law students, to work throughout the country meeting the legal needs of the poor.

For more information, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at (504) 861-5888 or jshields@loyno.edu.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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