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Headshot of Ben Gleekel

Ben Gleekel

  • Hosted by Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
  • Sponsored by 3M Company, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath
  • Service location Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Law school University of Minnesota Law School
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Ben’s (he/him/his) project will focus on providing legal services, outreach, and advocacy to low-income immigrants in Minnesota through hosting legal clinics and engaging in policy reform. Ben’s upbringing and loved ones motivate his commitment to ensuring the rights and human dignity of immigrant communities in his home state of Minnesota are respected and advocated for.

Fellowship Plans

Immigrant communities in Minnesota consistently feel the devastating effects of having to navigate complex immigration systems on their own. Unlike the criminal system, low-income individuals in immigration court proceedings are not guaranteed legal counsel. Currently, around 23,000 immigration court cases are pending in Minnesota with a 44.9% rate of representation. This is concerning because the number of new immigration court cases in Minnesota is rapidly rising, and a noncitizen with legal counsel in such proceedings is five times more likely to obtain relief and avoid deportation.

Ben’s project seeks to reduce the harm caused by the lack of guaranteed legal representation in immigration court proceedings for noncitizens in Minnesota. He will do this by hosting frequent legal clinics in communities, county jails, and at immigration court. These clinics will include relevant educational presentations and partial representation components where attendees will receive individualized advice, access to ample pro se resources, brief services, and referrals to immigration attorneys. While the clinics will not fully make up for a lack of full legal representation, they will provide recurring opportunities for individuals to obtain legal assistance that they otherwise would not get—thus increasing their chances of prevailing in immigration court. Ben’s project will also include advocacy efforts to pass protective policies for the communities he is serving.

Every day the United States immigration system facilitates the detention and deportation of noncitizens. Every person facing those grave consequences of the system deserves legal rights and representation.

Ben Gleekel /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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