ATLANTA — A new, one-of-its-kind immigration clinic is set to open next year in Georgia.

The program director, Emily Torstveit, said one of the goals is to help immigrants facing deportation.

"There are currently over 31,000 cases in the backlog at the immigration courts," Torstveit said. "As we increase the number of attorneys who are doing the work, it will increase the efficiency and make things run more smoothly for everyone involved."

Up to 16 law students will be able to work in the clinic each semester. The clinic is funded through a two-year, $300,000 grant.

The program will accept clients starting in January.

Georgia has become integral in the immigration debate. The state was at one point being considered as a site for a permanent child detention center. Those plans, however, fell through. 

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In Gwinnett County, the sheriff received heat after renewing the controversial 287(g) program, which allows specially-trained officers to check the immigration status of someone once they've been booked into jail on criminal charges. 

And after the one of largest immigration raids in a decade at a Mississippi poultry plant netted nearly 700 people in custody, some wondered if Georgia's own poultry industry - one of the largest in the world that relies heavily on immigrant labor - could experience the same

In Atlanta, meanwhile, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order in 2018 ending the city's relationship with ICE, telling the federal agency that it would no longer house detainees at the Atlanta City Jail. ICE now houses detainees at other detention facilities in Clayton Stewart and Irwin counties, as well as Folkston, Georgia.

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And this year, Bottoms said publicly she would not actively assist in large-scale planned ICE raids because her administration did not want to be "complicit" in the separation of children from their parents, a tactic actively used by the Trump Administration as a means of dissuading illegal immigration.


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