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As the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center enters its third decade of service to the community, its core mission of teaching competent and ethical future immigration attorneys continues.
“In my 10 years as the Immigration Clinic director, I have seen our clinic grow and develop in many ways,” said Immigration Clinic Director and Clinical Professor Geoffrey Hoffman.
“We now have four licensed attorneys and help hundreds
of immigrants on an annual basis with their cases, work authorizations, appeals and in myriad ways.
“We do a lot of complex litigation involving cases on the cutting edge of immigration. We’ve been to the Fifth Circuit, the Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit and 11th Circuit and help people all over Texas and all over the country. Our students consistently go on
to serve immigrants and other communities, here in Houston, as well as throughout Texas and the nation.”
Class of 2020 graduates Paul Pierla and Anna Steele reflected on the profound impact that working in the Immigration Clinic had on them personally and professionally.
“My understanding of the practice and substance of immigration law increased substantially,” Pierla said. “The practical aspects of working as an attorney, interviewing skills with regard to clients, spotting issues in applications, and new updates in immigration law were some of the topics I enjoyed the most.”
“Working in the Immigration Clinic was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my academic career,” Steele added. “Though I was deeply moved and saddened by many of the things I have heard from my clients, I used my emotions for something positive – for inspiration and motivation to do my best work on my cases.”
Additional Immigration Clinic faculty include:
• Clinical Fellow and Supervising Attorney Parker Sheffy, who previously worked as a Fellow at the St. Francis Cabrini Center in Houston for two years, providing representation
to individuals with wide-ranging immigration-based issues, including: asylum, special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), family-based immigration issues, and inadmissibility waivers, among others. While in law school, he served as a law clerk in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, which included working on projects pertinent to immigration policy.
• Clinical Supervising Attorney Josephine Sorgwe, who supervises law students on pro bono cases involving crime victims, asylum seekers, and more. Sorgwe also provides direct pro bono legal representation to immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence, and human trafficking under a grant from the
Texas Access to Justice Foundation.
• Clinical Lecturer Rosemary Vega, who was previously in private practice and a former partner at Tausk & Vega. She was the sole staff attorney at YMCA International Services from 2003-05. After completing her legal education, she worked as a judicial law clerk for seven immigration judges at the Houston Immigration Court through the Department of Justice Honors Program from 2000-01.
James D. Nelson became the first Law Center faculty member to be honored by the University
of Houston with its award
for “Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity” in May.
“I am delighted to receive this award,” said Nelson, a business law scholar who works at the intersection of corporate and constitutional law. “I am also very
Briefcase 2020
Associate Professor James D. Nelson
grateful to my colleagues at the Law Center for their support and to the University for making the selection.”
“I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations for achieving this great scholarly milestone,” Amr Elnashai, UH vice chancellor/ vice president for Research & Technical Transfer, wrote in notifying Nelson of the award. “I understand that the quality of the nominees this year was exceptionally high, and your selection is a testimony of your outstanding accomplishments in research and scholarship.”
“I am very proud of Professor Nelson’s accomplishments,” said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “He is the first professor whom I hired as dean. He is an immensely talented teacher and scholar with a great deal of future potential. He is part of an incredibly productive and scholarly faculty.”
Prior to joining the Law Center in 2015, Nelson was a postdoctoral fellow in Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School. He
also has been a fellow at the Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership and research director of the Project
on Corporate Political Spending at Harvard Law School. Nelson earned a J.D. in 2009 from the University of Virginia School of Law where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review.
In 1993, the late Professor Irene Merker Rosenberg was recognized with a similar honor, the University of Houston Research Excellence Award, for her scholarship in the areas of criminal law and the juvenile justice system.

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