Online Certificate Program in Immigration 11/21/14 11/20/14 10:51:45 PM
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Jo Wandel Carol Cleaver
Metropolitan Community College
Online Certificate Program in Immigration
Law, Policy and Procedure Being Developed
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
Undeniably, immigration is an important contemporary issue in the United States, and Metropolitan Community College is developing an online Laws, Policies and Procedures Certificate that will prepare students to better understand the legal and ethical issues involved with it.
Carol Cleaver, MCC paralegal business law instructor, explained why a certificate of this type was deemed important: “The increasing immigrant and refugee populations require individuals in many professions to be familiar with laws governing immigrants in the United States. A wide range of professionals who work in the area of immigration will benefit from the program, including lawyers, paralegals, non-profit organizations, government agencies and academic and business professionals. There are only a few online courses available in immigration law, policy and procedure. This program offers a unique opportunity for persons who lack the education or training needed to pursue career opportunities or to enhance professional skills in professions that serve immigration populations.”
Jo Wandel, legal assistant instructor at MCC, explained further: “A vital component of our ongoing program assessment is to question our local attorneys as to what they need as further education for their paralegals. Other than the core subjects taught in our curriculum, the attorneys continue to express a need for courses in technology and immigration. In response, an immigration course was offered for our paralegal students. We then heard that employees or even the employers also needed a technology and immigration course. Individual technology courses have been consistently offered at MCC, but our immigration course is only for our paralegal students enrolled in our Paralegal Program; not open to others outside the program. We recognized the need and that led to the proposed development of the career certificate program.”
To earn the Immigration Laws, Policies and Procedures certificate, one must complete the following courses: Introduction to U.S. Immigration Law, Immigration Regulatory Agencies, Immigration and Families, Immigration and Employment, Ethics and Immigration Advocacy and Compliance, and Service Learning. Each class is worth 4.5 credits. In total, one must complete between 25.5 to 27 credit hours. As it has been said, the program is still in-development, so no students are yet enrolled.
“The career certificate is not an ‘add on’ for students enrolled in the paralegal program or designed specifically for lawyers,” Cleaver said. “We anticipate the backgrounds of students may be professionals who work in the area of immigration, including lawyers, paralegals, employees in non-profit organizations, government agencies, academic and business professions. Others may be persons who want to pursue career opportunities in businesses and agencies that serve or represent immigrant populations.
“The career certificate in Immigration Law, Policy and Procedure offers a unique opportunity for persons who want to pursue career opportunities or enhance professional skills to understand laws and regulations governing U.S. immigration and citizenship, analyze compliance issues with changing immigration policies, and to recognize ethical issues in immigration advocacy and compliance,” Cleaver added. “It is important to understand the program does not qualify any person who is not a licensed attorney to practice immigration law.”
Wandel explained that it has always been the goal of MCC’s Paralegal Program “to respond to our community needs and to not only welcome diversity, but to embrace diversity, consistent with the mission statement of our college.” This certificate program furthers those objectives. “Since this is an independent course from the Paralegal Program, the only change in the Legal Studies Department may be an increase of students specifically interested in the Immigration Career Certificate,” she said. “Since it will be offered as an online course it will be attractive to professionals and para-professional students alike.”
Metropolitan Community College has several programs for students interested in the legal field, including legal studies, a paralegal option, a pre-law option, a legal administrative assistant option and a legal assistant-accelerated certificate. LeAnn Nussrallah earned her associate’s degree in paralegal studies with an emphasis on litigation at MCC, and had nothing but positive things to say about the program: “I really liked it there, because the instructors were really cool. I had more than one tell me that they would meet me at a Burger King or another convenient place for me if I needed help in a particular class. I liked that they were doing the actual job that they were teaching and had real-world examples of the subject. I liked the fact that you could schedule classes around your job and family. I interned with James Martin Davis, and let me tell you that threw me right in the fire as far as having to learn on the job and assert myself. I really enjoyed it. I worked at a couple of different law firms and felt quite prepared to just sit down and work immediately.”
According to data from the first quarter of 2011, 81.3 percent of those students graduating from MCC’s legal assistant/paralegal program were working in Nebraska, earning about $28,362. Winter classes begin Dec. 1. For more information about the program, call (402) 457-2400 or visit mccneb.edu/future.