New beginnings

The issue: About 457,000 Minnesota residents are foreign born, including many refugees and asylees who fled their home countries because of war, persecution, and human rights abuses. Minnesota has a reputation for excellent pro bono and nonprofit services for immigrants and refugees, but the community’s legal resources are stretched too thin to meet the need.

How the U is addressing it: Since the James H. Binger Center for New Americans was founded in 2013 with a $4.5 million gift from the Robina Foundation, it has provided immigrants and refugees with pro bono legal services—and given U of M law students valuable real-world experience. Students and faculty at the center have won a landmark case at the U.S. Supreme Court, secured political asylum for clients from around the world, and won release for detained immigrants in Minnesota.

Why it matters: Kelley Keefer, ’17, will never forget the day she and other members of the U of M Law School’s Detainee Rights Clinic finally succeeded in getting lawful immigration status for a client who had been detained for five months. “Watching him reunite with his family will go down as one of the most memorable moments of my law school career,” says Keefer, student director of the clinic.

How philanthropy makes it possible: The Robina Foundation recently gave $25 million to fund the center, establish the James H. Binger Professorship in Clinical Law, and provide student scholarship support. It is the largest gift in the Law School’s history.

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