Iowa Law maintain its position as a top law school for human rights law, landing a new federally funded grant to support immigration
Tuesday, December 12, 2023

For the third year running, the University of Iowa College of Law was cited as one of the top three law schools in the nation for human rights law by preLaw, a popular digital magazine that helps prospective students search for and apply to law schools.

One new initiative Iowa Law students are participating in is the Afghan Legal League of Iowa (ALL Iowa), a federally funded program that helps Afghan refugees settle in Iowa. ALL Iowa is a statewide partnership—coordinated and administered by Iowa Law’s Center for Human Rights—involving Iowa Law, Drake Law School, and the Iowa Movement for Migrant Justice. The program provides legal assistance to Afghan nationals in the state who fled to the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome, a “humanitarian parole” program instituted after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

More than 1,000 Afghans, many in need of representation and assistance with essential immigration and asylum processes and paperwork, have made Iowa their new home through Operation Allies Welcome. Thanks to the ALL Iowa program, those refugees can get legal immigration help through Iowa Law’s Legal Clinic, the Drake Refugee Clinic, and Iowa Movement for Migrant Justice.

Amy Weismann, a 2000 UI College of Law graduate, is assistant director of the Center for Human Rights. She said ALL Iowa is not only serving the needs of qualifying Afghan refugees, but also providing career-building opportunities to Iowa Law students and increasing the state’s future capacity for welcoming refugees.

“ALL Iowa has created multiple paid summer immigration law internships with partnering organizations,” Weismann said. “The grant has also enabled us to create a legal fellowship for a third-year Iowa Law student to support the work of a partner organization. After graduation, the fellowship recipient will continue working for the organization while studying for the bar, and then work as an attorney for the organization for one year with funding support from ALL Iowa. We hope to seed the next generation of immigration lawyers in the state and encourage them to stay and serve in Iowa.”

Weismann estimated that as of fall 2023, more than 600 Afghans have used services through the ALL Iowa partnership.

“Through Iowa Law’s Legal Clinic and our partner organizations, qualifying Afghan clients have access to direct, supervised legal representation for asylum, temporary protected status, and special immigrant status applications, as well as work authorization and family reunification,” Weismann said. “The partners have also led education programs to train pro bono attorneys to provide these services.”

ALL Iowa funding enables Iowa Law to work with its partners to enhance the state’s ability to serve the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers in the coming decades.

“Iowa Law is leading our state’s capacity-building for immigration legal services not only by supporting the existing network of providers and facilitating their coordination and communication,” Weismann said, “but also by building capacity within new Afghan communities to engage in the legal system.”

ALL Iowa was funded in 2022 with a $1.15 million grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which tapped the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to administer the funding over two years.