The UNLV Immigration Clinic is getting another financial boost.
On Tuesday, Clark County commissioners approved the clinic's request to extend the time period for unspent funds. According to Commissioner Tick Segerblom, $500,000 from the marijuana fund was given to the clinic back in 2021. Unused funding was set to expire at the end of the year.
Clinic director and UNLV law professor Michael Kagan said $369,341 in funding still hadn't been spent because "during the start-up period of the office, we did not spend most of the County appropriation as we gradually hired staff."
This past legislative session, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed Assembly Bill 328 into law, which is providing the clinic with $1 million. That money will be spread out over the next two years. However, Kagan said they may need more help for funding in the future.
"I do need to be frank. This is a continuing operation. It is something we are hoping to continue to be able to fund and be able to ask for support for," Kagan said. "Around the country and other localities that operate this, it's how they do this. Our funding right now is about one-third from the state, one-third from the county, and one-third from private funding."
Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick asked Kagan to give commissioners an exact number on what future funding requests would be. Kagan told the board he couldn't give an exact number because the request would go into the next biennium of the state cycle and they haven't done the planning budget yet.
"When you get the bulk of the money and hire the staff, there's an expectation that in order to keep that program, you have to have those dollars," Kirkpatrick said. "At some point, this board has to know what the long-term expectation is because everybody's programming, their mission is increasing but there's still the same pie of money."
Kagan has previously told legislators that despite receiving more funding, the clinic is trying to be good stewards of that money.
"We are happy with our location in the Arts District. The reason why we are there is because the office is donated by a former member of this body, Ozzie Fumo. It's essential because otherwise, we would have to be paying for rent," Kagan said in April. "We also have a partnership with a private organization based in New York called Immigration Justice Forum who sends us lawyers to help us staff our office."
According to Kagan, those partnerships allow the clinic to handle the most complex types of immigration cases for less than $2,500 per case. Since the clinic began their work, Kagan said they've represented 343 clients. Of that, 134 were unaccompanied children, 81 were detained adults, and 128 were through university legal services. However, he adds they are seeing increased demand for their services.
"Since the Community Advocacy Office opened in 2022, we have received 1,066 calls seeking our help. We've also offered 371 consultations because we can't provide full representation to everyone," Kagan said. "For some of the cases we take on, it could be the case load an attorney takes on for an entire year. It takes several years for these cases to be resolved."
Right now, Kagan said they're looking to hire additional staff and expand their office space to meet that demand. According to Kagan, the clinic has received 652 calls in non-service areas from people that need help.
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