Jacob Mantey ’22 was interested in the Immigration Law Clinic with The Justice Center at Albany Law School before he even took the LSAT.
As a Siena College undergraduate, he saw Professor Sarah Rogerson, Director of the Justice Center, speak at the college’s Constitution Day about the Detention Outreach Project—a collaboration with the Albany County Correctional Facility to provide detained immigrants and their families with pro bono legal counsel—and he knew that he wanted to work with The Justice Center to help immigrants. Before beginning his studies at Albany Law, Mantey served as an intern with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, where he fielded calls from constituents about immigration issues.
“After my experience with Senator Gillibrand’s office, I found the cause really important,” he said. “I was really interested in what Professor Rogerson had said, and I decided that I was going to try and apply to Albany Law School and participate in the Immigration Law Clinic as soon as I could.”
Since starting at Albany Law in 2019, Mantey has immersed himself in assisting immigrants and educating his classmates and community on immigration issues. In addition to serving as a student intern for two full semesters in the Immigration Law Clinic, he also assisted the Clinic during school breaks, including Winter 2020-21 and Summer 2021. He currently serves as President of the Immigration Law Pro Bono Society, recently founded the Immigration Law Society, of which he is also President, and continues to assist the Immigration Law Clinic with its ongoing projects.
While a student intern with the Immigration Law Clinic, Mantey helped children seeking refuge at the United States/Mexico border through Project Corazon, a nonprofit that connects children and families seeking asylum with pro bono counsel. Student interns in the Clinic worked with David Fernandez ’92 and other pro bono attorneys to prepare asylum applications and supporting documentation for vulnerable children seeking safety and protection in the United States.
Mantey is continuing his work helping people seeking refuge. With the Immigration Law Clinic, Mantey is leading the Albany Law student response to assist Afghans affected by the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mantey and the Clinic are supporting Albany’s local refugee resettlement office, the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (“USCRI”), to help local people with ties to Afghanistan who have been affected by the situation. Known internally as the Afghan Intake Project (“AIP”), Albany Law students screen callers’ and their family members for potential immigration options before passing the results on to experienced immigration attorneys for assessment and referral.
Mantey has led and organized Albany Law School students and has been a key figure in the administration of the project. Current events in Afghanistan have created an overwhelming situation for legal service providers throughout the country, and Mantey is cognizant that his part in organizing the Albany Law students goes far to support local community partners.
“It's our responsibility to follow up with those people and get more information on the type of help that they're seeking,” Mantey said. “We have a lot of 1Ls who volunteered to do this, which is surprising and I'm thankful for. Most 1Ls don't have a lot of time in the first semester. They are getting experience in client relations upfront – it's definitely a resume builder – and it's also really fulfilling community engagement because the people that we're working with are local Capital Region residents. They're community members seeking to help family trapped in Afghanistan. I think when people can directly affect the wellbeing of their community in even a small way, it's fulfilling.”
The work has also become an experience to learn leadership skills, he said. Working with Immigration Law Clinic Staff Attorney Lauren DesRosiers, the project has become an organized and effective way to provide immigration screenings for a large number of people. Students sign up for shifts, supervised by more experienced students, to collect screening information from callers. While gratifying, humanitarian immigration work can be taxing on the mind and spirit. Mantey makes a particular effort to check in with his colleagues and classmates before and after each intake shift. Speaking with people who are experiencing significant trauma, and with confidentiality paramount, anyone who assists on these calls can feel stressed and isolated.
“It's hard to put it aside after you're exposed to it. And it's something that your mind travels back to at times, and it's very distressing. I've had volunteers come up to me post intake and we just sit and we talk about it for a while. You can hear in their voice and see in their eyes that they're sad, they're upset about what's going on and that's justified,” he said. “So, I try to take the time at the beginning of each session to open it up for people who want to share. We talk about how we each cope and give tips. It just helps to talk about it.”
Mantey and other students have also formed an Immigration Law Society, a student-run group focused on helping immigrants and educating the community.
The club is going to work more on a community organization level. It's going to work to support the immigrant community here on campus, which is large, and the immigrant community in Albany and hopefully the country and the world as we scale things up,” he said. “So, I'm really happy and thrilled with the student engagement that we've gotten. I'm excited to move it forward.”