A few blocks north of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is an area very different than the idyllic Magic Kingdom. Here, you will find lower income neighborhoods with a high population of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America, Asia and the Middle East. Life is not easy or safe, and when domestic violence enters the picture, even the home is no sanctuary. When such victims are undocumented immigrants, options are few.
In 2007, Chapman University's Fowler School of Law created the Family Protection Clinic to address the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence. Located at the secure Orange County Family Justice Center, the clinic is directed by Chapman professor Marisa Cianciarulo, a veteran immigration lawyer and legal clinician. Underwritten through a generous gift from Bette and Wylie Aitken, the clinic offers free assistance in immigration, human trafficking and protection order matters for clients who meet income eligibility requirements.
The Aitken Family Protection Clinic serves approximately 150 survivors of family violence annually. In a recent victory, our law students helped a victim of domestic violence who was married to an abusive U.S. citizen. The victim was escorted to a shelter and referred to the Aitken Family Protection Clinic for help. Our students worked with the victim, listened to her story, gathered evidence of the abuse that she and her son suffered, and ultimately filed a petition for relief though the federal Violence Against Women Act. She and her son are now legally living in this country, safe and far away from her attacker. She is legally employed and her son is happy, healthy and in school.
Unlike externships, where student work supports a program director, the Family Protection Clinic gives students primary responsibility for cases and direct interaction with clients. This model is facilitated by special rules that allow students enrolled in clinical courses to do anything a lawyer can do, so long as there is supervision by a licensed attorney.