Center for DREAMers provides holistic support for DACA students

DACA protestors outside the white house; signs that say "here to stay, here to fight" and "my dreams are no illegal" and Defend DACA
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Erin Barbato
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Erika Rosales

The UW Law School launched a new center to support Wisconsin’s DREAMers, an all-encompassing term describing individuals who have lived in the United States without official lawful status since coming to the country as a minor. The Center for DREAMers was awarded a grant through the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, a competitive grant program that fosters public engagement and the advancement of the Wisconsin Idea.

Clinical Professor and Director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the Law School Erin Barbato, together with Erika Rosales of the School of Education, will lead the Center for DREAMers.

The center will serve the approximately 11,000 DREAMers in Wisconsin, working with organizations to coordinate the provision of legal representation, mental and social services, and career and educational counseling to ease the burden of some of the uncertainty experienced by undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Barbato, who teaches second- and third-year law students to represent individuals in removal proceedings and with humanitarian-based immigration relief, says the center will become an important resource for the community.

“The Center for DREAMers will bring together comprehensive resources for students that have DACA in Wisconsin,” says Barbato. “Currently, no organization in Wisconsin exists that has the capacity to serve the unique educational and legal needs of DACA recipients. We hope the center will serve this population in a manner that will allow them to fulfill their potential in a state and country they call home. We are honored to have the opportunity to serve this population so they no longer have to live in fear and one day they will have equity in educational opportunities as well as citizenship.”

As a part of its community-focused approach, the center provides outreach events and support on different campus and community locations, including the South Madison Partnership. A particular focus includes outreach to DACA communities throughout the state of Wisconsin, including bi-monthly information events.

The center’s mission also aligns with the Law School’s law-in-action tradition.

“The University of Wisconsin Law School is renowned for its law-in-action approach to legal education, and the Center for DREAMers aligns with that practical approach to learning and the pursuit of equal justice,” says Dean Dan Tokaji. “We’re grateful for the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment’s support for the center and are thrilled by the opportunities this will provide for our students and the community.”

Located in the Law School’s Economic Justice Institute, the center opened in October and began providing office hours and counseling services. Clinical law students in the Immigrant Justice Clinic play an instrumental role in the center’s work, says Barbato. Under her guidance, the students provide direct representation to people with DACA in renewals and may provide representation to people with DACA who are eligible for pathways to citizenship through family, employment, or for humanitarian-based reasons.