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A class of students from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law will be able to provide legal assistance to Mexican citizens who run into trouble and Americans who want to do business in Mexico under an agreement signed on May 17. Mexican Consul General Rodulfo Figueroa and John Brittain, dean of the law school, signed the agreement to establish the Mexican Legal Remedies Clinic in the consulate. “It’s an opportunity not only to gain basic lawyer skills but the other benefit is the students will get international law experience,” Brittain said. Brittain said that between six and 12 students will be given the externships when the 2001-2002 academic year begins in August. A student will spend a semester or the summer in the faculty-supervised clinic to earn three to six hours of law school credit, he said. “This is a very important matter, not only for the Mexican consulate and TSU. This is a most important matter for the Houston community and the regulations between two great countries,” Figueroa said through a consulate spokesman. Marco Dosal, public information officer for the consulate, said the clinic will provide an opportunity for future Texas lawyers and judges to see Mexican nationals from a different perspective. “They’re going to see another view of the Mexican immigrant,” Dosal said. Dosal said one of the consulate’s duties is to try to help Mexican immigrants obtain their rights in the Texas justice system. “We know that sometimes they have not been treated fairly,” he added. According to Dosal, more than 3,500 Mexican citizens are in Texas jails or detention facilities and 19 have been sentenced to death. Dosal said the agreement to allow law students to work in the consulate is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Brittain said students will be able to work with immigrants in a number of areas. They not only will assist immigrants when they run afoul of the criminal justice system in Texas, but also assist them with immigration issues, domestic relations — such as divorce and spousal abuse — and international law questions, he said. The students will work in the embassy under the supervision of attorneys, including faculty, lawyers on the consulate staff and lawyers in private practice who are recruited to assist at the embassy, said the dean. Brittain said students who obtain certification to appear in Texas courts may represent clients in some matters in the courtroom. For example, a law student might assist a client to obtain a restraining order. The students also will interview clients, do research on cases and possibly assist with investigations, Brittain said. The clinic in the Mexican consulate continues the law school’s expansion beyond its role as a historically black institution. Over the past two years, 52 percent of all the Hispanic students in Texas’ four state-funded law schools attended the Thurgood Marshall school, Brittain said. “Approximately 23 percent or our law students are Hispanic,” he said. Brittain said the effort to assist Hispanics in Houston probably won’t be limited to those from Mexico. The Mexican consulate has invited him to see how the clinic’s services can be expanded to help citizens from other Latin American countries, particularly Guatemala and El Salvador.

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