Vu, February 2005
Reflections on the trip to Brownsville, Texas
I had the opportunity
to work with 5 other BC Law students in South Texas over spring
break. Unlike some of the other designated spots, we were located
in Brownsville, close to the US-Mexico border. I think this gave
us an experience that was unique in that we were able to feel how
much the issues of immigration law came to life.
a part of a family that immigrated to the United States, I found
the experience of working on a case for people who had gone through
similar obstacles extraordinarily moving. I worked with another
student, on a case trying to classify domestic violence as a means
for asylum in the United States under the division of 'social group'
or 'political opinion' under asylum provisions. We learned a lot
about the issues that immigrants face trying to enter the United
States, as well as the issues that the US faces in trying to regulate
I am very thankful
for BC for putting this trip together for us, because the trip brought
to life several of the legal processes that we had only learned
about in our first semester, but had not lived or experienced. The
trials and hearings that we attended in court at the detention center,
seeing clients at a detention center, the experience of reading
and writing memos and declarations for our clients, actually working
to represent somebody --- these were all experiences that no classroom
could have really prepared us for.
Not only did
the trip bring to life several of the legal issues that we thought
about in class, it provided a remarkable bonding experience. I found
myself thinking several times, "this is what law school is
really about, or what it should be about," or "this is
why we came to law school." I couldn't have
asked for better colleagues - or better yet, friends, to have gone
on the trip with. Moreover, Amy Wax, former BC alumna, was a spectacular
supervisor. Thank you to Jill, Scarlett, Matt, and Prof. Kanstroom,
and BC Law for putting this trip together.
Halloran , February 2005
Immigration Service Trip Reflection - Miami, FL
romance of the moment is not lost on me. I am sitting on a lounge
chair on the beach watching the full moon rise over the Atlantic
Ocean. But it is the events of the day and not the idyllic setting
that are occupying my thoughts. This morning I watched as a Miami
Immigration Judge ordered two teenaged Cuban boys to be deported
while their mother sobbed quietly at their side. The lump in my
throat grew as my supervisor from Catholic Charities Legal Services
leaned over to me and whispered about the mistakes the boys' lawyer
had made. Even as he talked, he scribbled his cell phone number
on his card to hand to the mother on her way out. There is always
the appeals process.
I saw a lot
of bad lawyering today. But there were a few bright spots. It refreshed
my will to follow through with this endeavor of law school, because
good lawyers really can do good. It is that kind of idealism that
falls by the wayside when exams are pending, and it seems like there
will be no end to the stress and studying. So once in awhile, when
we get to poke our heads up from the books, and take a look around
at the world, it's a pleasant surprise to find that some of this
knowledge we are busy acquiring is useful.
The moon is
high now, and it is time to go to sleep. First thing
tomorrow morning we are accompanying our supervisor as he argues
for the cancellation of removal of a British man who has lived here
in Florida for ten years and coaches his sons' soccer team. Luckily,
he has a good lawyer.
Holloway , February 2005
I spent winter
recess in Harlingen, Texas working for ProBAR, a non-profit specializing
in immigration law. Specifically I worked on two cases, one seeking
asylum and the other seeking relief under the Convention Against
Torture. This experience was brief, but intense, and it contributed
immensely to my personal growth. It allowed me to use the skills
I acquired during the client counseling competition at BC and during
ILPR to actually interview a live client and in
Spanish. My interaction with my client was humbling and fulfilling.
I listened to her tell her tragic story and my presence communicated
to her that she was not alone, that despite her inability to speak
English, she would have a voice and a legal advocate.
Palazzo , February 2005
Day one of the immigration service trip began with an assignment.
My knowledge of immigration law was close to zero and my main motivation
for being on the trip was to work alongside an actual attorney for
the first time. My parents both immigrated to the US in the 1960's
and my father worked with immigrant children for most of my life.
I considered myself knowledgeable about the needs of the poor immigrant
community, but my short visit to Miami abruptly demonstrated my
My first assignment
was to research country conditions in Lithuania for ethnic Russians.
A pair of fifteen year old siblings, who had been living in foster
care for over eight years, had been ordered deported by the Department
of Homeland Security. My employer for the week, the Florida Immigration
Advocacy Center (FIAC), had taken up their case and was fighting
their Order of Removal. The two children had fled the former Soviet
state when their business-owning parents had been terrorized by
organized crime. The only family that the children knew of in Lithuania
was an uncle that they had never met. The attorney from FIAC explained
that she was in the process of applying the children for political
asylum and that their hearing was scheduled for that Friday. My
job was to gather as much information on the treatment of ethnic
Russians and organized crime in Lithuania as possible. Our goal
was to convince the administrative judge that the children would
be persecuted upon their arrival back in Lithuania, most likely
by the same criminals who had violently harassed their family years
week, my attorney had me work on several other cases. I was sent
to the Federal detention facility outside of the city to interview
two prisoners. I was in court to observe hearings and administrative
proceedings. I was able to see how Cuban immigrants who enter the
country illegally are treated differently from their Haitian and
Central American counterparts. In the FIAC offices, I helped draft
motions and affidavits pertaining to at least four different clients.
The staff attorneys that I worked with treated me with respect and
challenged me to contribute to their cases.
But my experience
Friday afternoon at the administrative courthouse in downtown Miami
is what I will carry with me for many years to come. I entered the
courtroom confident in all the research that I had done. The pages
of documents that I had gathered and entered into the record filled
three file folders. My research included United Nations studies,
testimony from the State Department, and affidavits from professors
and experts around the country.
two minutes into the hearing, however, all my research was rendered
irrelevant. The judge interrupted my attorney's opening statement
to inform her that it sounded like the children's family was the
victim of extortion by the local mafia. Extortion, the judge continued,
is not covered by the laws of the US as grounds for asylum. I looked
at the attorney I had been working for all week. Surely, I thought,
this observation by the judge had been expected. Surely our entire
hope for asylum was not pinned to this legal argument.
The last thing
I will ever remember from my experience in Miami are the tears of
the two children as the judge announced his decision to reject their
plea for asylum and to allow their removal from the US. I had assumed
that the attorney I had been working for was an expert in her field.
I had assumed that she was battle-tested and talented simply because
she had good intentions. But my frustrating experience in court
showed me otherwise. It illustrated to me that the needs of the
poor, in this case the immigrant community, go far beyond money
or language. The quality of legal counsel, even
when secured free of charge, is yet another woeful disadvantage
that they must endure. It now even clearer to me how valuable my
legal education is and the power I will someday wield with it.
Jordan, February 2005
Immigration Trip - ProBAR: Harlingen, TX Reflection
Each new lawyer
fears that first client interview. The pressure certainly mounts
when the client enters wearing an orange jump suit emblazoned with
PIPC-short for Port Isabel Processing Center. The barbed wire fences
were easy reminders as we drove in that our clients weren't on vacation.
That is one of the things you realize immediately: these aren't
people with the due process rights we enjoy. They have taken a risk
by coming to the U.S., and these are the consequences.
name was Oscar. Only a year older than me, I could tell he immediately
looked to me for confidence. As I look back, I can barely imagine
the feeling of powerlessness the detainees must go through. They
are trapped behind the walls 24 hours a day, most are without family,
and an even greater majority speaks only Spanish. I sat through
a morning of Immigration Court proceedings, and I saw that these
people are in fact treated humanely and often quite fairly. If they
are here illegally, the U.S. Government sends them back. The proceedings
assume a more complex stature when the detainees seek asylum or
Oscar had pepper
sprayed a drug lord at a Salvadoran nightclub while working as a
security guard. The drug lord was pummeling another man in the head
with an empty glass bottle. Oscar's boss had given him the pepper
spray, and he reacted to the situation just as he was instructed.
Unfortunately, he sprayed the wrong person. A few days after the
fight, men returned to the club looking for the security guard who
had used the spray. Then the body of the other man in the fight
was found with a bullet hole in the back of the head. Oscar left
before his identity could be revealed.
I sat across
from Oscar and felt an immediate sense of responsibility. I slowly
realized that this man depended on me. I began to think: What do
I know? Does he know about my grades last semester? Who am I to
provide legal advice? There was one problem, however: I was sitting
in the room with my client and I needed to come up with something.
Anything. During the car ride to the detention center, our adviser
had told us that in these first interviews we should act like journalists-gather
the Who? What? When? And why? So I began to ask questions about
As a frame of
reference, we arrived in Texas on Saturday, went to the Gulf of
Mexico on Sunday, and it was now Monday afternoon. I had received
a little less than one hour of introduction from ProBAR director
Meredith Linsky and then read for another hour trying to decipher
when relief is granted under the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Of course, the first question Oscar asked pertained not to the trial
on Monday-the one I was preparing for-but to his future proceedings.
He wanted to know what was next. I was rendered unprepared immediately.
It is a lonely
feeling to be sitting without answers in front of a man in an orange
jumpsuit. Fortunately for me, we were accompanied by experienced
attorneys and answers were footsteps away. The interview continued
pleasantly, and I could sense Oscar becoming more comfortable. He,
like so many others, was a victim of circumstances. How did he know
he was spraying a drug lord? Wasn't he doing his job?
Now, I was not
totally unprepared. I had composed some questions meant to gather
the essential information I would need to begin work on his application
and a brief to support that application. I knew I didn't want to
get too involved on this first of two visits because I felt building
a relationship was most important. However, I knew we would have
to discuss the major obstacle standing in the way of his application:
a prior conviction.
In most immigration
proceedings the normal rules of evidence do not apply: prior convictions
are relevant no matter the circumstances. The judge considers past
convictions to determine whether the applicant poses a threat to
society. If so, the U.S. does not automatically deport the applicant,
but they can detain him indefinitely. Oscar had been deported from
the U.S. in 2000 after spending 45 days in a California jail. If
Oscar is deemed a threat to society but granted protection, he has
to choose between deportation back to El Salvador-where he fears
being killed-or remaining in detention.
not to discuss his conviction. I refrained from prying too deep,
but I advised him that even if I didn't address the facts of his
prior conviction in the brief, the judge would ask him what happened
at the hearing. He was convicted five years ago during a time he
defined as his reckless youth. He claimed he had matured since then.
Too bad I wasn't making the determination, because I was sold. I
simply told him that if we did not want to tell me, he should get
his story straight because to contradict himself in front of the
judge would be fatal.
Soon I had to
face what actually became the hardest portion of the interview:
the goodbye. Every client interview ends with some sort of forecast.
It could be a future meeting time or small assignments for both
parties. And then there's the, "Everything will work out,"
line. Did I really know? I couldn't say things would be fine. I
didn't know the law or the processes. Even if I knew the law, what
would that mean? Was his a "particularly serious crime"
as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act? More importantly,
would the judge see it as "particularly serious"? Was
there "government acquiescence"? I know the man was a
drug lord, but can I prove government involvement? Instead, I chose
to tell my client the truth: that I would get to work. And I did.
I worked all
week for this man and only wished I had three more. It's fascinating
how involved I became in Oscar's story. I am plagued
by writer's block (or lack of motivation) when writing for the "14th
Circuit" of Grimes, but I had no trouble finding motivation
for this brief. In fact, I found myself sweating while poring over
cases. It truly was an adrenaline rush.
E.L. Wiecks, February 2005
Los Angeles, CA
The five days
I spent working at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC)
in Los Angeles afforded me an amazing first-hand experience with
immigration law. Not only did I emerge with a better understanding
of the intricacies of immigration law, but I also witnessed they
ways in which laws affect actual people. CLINIC opened my eyes to
the necessity of assisting everyone so that access to the legal
system is available to all people, particularly those convicted
of a crime, and the importance of attempting to provide an understanding
of the legal system to people who might otherwise have no clear
conception of their rights.
The week began
with a visit to a local detention center where I assisted with the
interviewing of a detainee. His story was heart-wrenching and I
felt like this experience set the tone for the entire week - our
work was intense and interviewing an actual detainee and meeting
several others made the work we did very personal. For the remainder
of the week, I worked with a fellow student to write a motion to
reopen and a supporting memorandum regarding the applicability of
§ 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to the case
of a former detainee seeking to apply the waiver under § 212(c)
to his particular situation. We researched the legal intricacies
of the § 212(c) waiver and the evolution of the case law on
the subject, specifically searching for a loophole that would permit
the client to use the date of his crime as the qualifying date under
§ 212(c) as opposed to the usual standard of using the date
the plea was entered. Interestingly, our research also had a personal
element as the client appeared on local public radio with one of
the attorneys from CLINIC while we were in Los Angeles; thus, we
had the opportunity to hear him speak directly about immigrating
to the United States and about how he has turned his life around
since his conviction.
At the end of
the week, my impression of the CLINIC and of my experience was that
working in immigration law is extremely difficult. Representing
and assisting people whose very way-of-life has been completely
altered adds an element of importance to one's daily work. In cases
involving detainees and people who may be deported, the case does
not involve some monetary punishment, but instead a complete upheaval
of one's world. Through conversations with the lawyers employed
by CLINIC, the detainees I met, and the cases I read throughout
the week, I began to appreciate the nuances of immigration
law. Furthermore, for the first time I recognized the critical need
for attorneys who are willing to represent people who may have committed
an act that makes representing them difficult based on your personal
Doynow , February 2005
Re: Immigration Trip to DC
I spent a week
in DC at CAIR, Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition. The organization
focuses on detention and asylum issues for illegal immigrants. One
aspect of our trip dealt with detainees and aiding them in their
quest to either be removed from the country or fight for their right
to say within the US's borders. I learned a lot about how immigration
law works in this respect. Most importantly I was able to see the
problem with the current laws that the US has in place. Immigrants
who commit crimes of moral turpitude are sent back to their countries,
but this term is ill-defined and leads to an significant amount
of uncertainty. In addition, smaller offenses such as shoplifting
may lead to deportation. Thankfully there are defenses and reasons
to be able to stay such as family and dependence. But do we really
think it is just to send a person to another country for shoplifting
just because they were not lucky enough to be born in a democratic
society in the first place?
Along with the
discussions we had, we also did a detention center visit. I was
actually the only one able to go to one of the detention centers
and found it very interesting. The one I went to had decent accommodations
and the detainees seemed to have been treated well. Though, after
meeting with them, I found their stories upsetting and depressing.
Some of them could not speak any English and their detention officers
would not answer their phones or could not understand them sufficiently
enough to help them meet their goals. When a male detainee began
to cry, I really started to begin to understand what was going on
these detention centers. I could not imagine traveling to another
country, and at the border being thrown in jail because I said the
wrong thing, and then most importantly, not being able to figure
it out within a day or two. Some of these men and women who legitimately
had no reason to be in jail (just a misunderstanding due to language
barriers) were stuck in US prisons for weeks. They came from very
normal lives and were just here to visit a friend, etc.
The other issue
we looked at, which I spent most of my time researching was asylum.
I was given a case about a man from the Central African Republic
who was seeking asylum to be able to stay in the US. He came here
with a diplomatic visa to be able to work in the embassy, but while
he was here, the Prime Minister (his brother-in-law) was overthrown,
and the visa expired. His family left in the CAR was forced to flee
to save their lives, and therefore, he could not return home. I
found this case very troubling because although it is probable that
if his story is true he should be able to get citizenship eventually,
meanwhile, he has nothing. He currently cannot work unless he does
it illegally and he has no food for his son. He is completely reliant
upon charitable organizations.
Overall, I found
the trip very enlightening and important. Upon my departure I realized
what it means to be an American citizen and how lucky we are in
the US that the Republicans don't "overthrow" the Democrats
causing civil wars and mass uprisings. In addition, beyond the fact
that these people cannot or truly do not want to go back to the
country's that they were born in, is it really just
to make them? Is there a better way that US can do this or think
about immigrants? These are definitely things that I would like
to look into in the future and I hope to continue to do work on
Dalfior , February 2005
Reflection from 2005 Immigration Service Trip
The most influential
part of my experience was a series of intake interviews that we
conducted under the supervision of Boston College Law School graduate
Patricia Mejia. Going into the detention center I had a fairly good
idea of who we would encounter; immigration detention centers are
filled mostly with men with limited financial resources who have
been convicted of at least one crime and have subsequently been
picked up by immigration authorities after completing their criminal
sentences. After serving time in prison, many of these men have
no resources to hire a lawyer, have few chances to escape deportation,
and want to be deported just to end their time locked up in immigration
detention. Others are quite established in the United States, with
families, jobs, and houses. While I believe that these men deserve
more than summary deportation, deserve to be represented by attorneys
whether or not they can afford one, and deserve the same procedural
rights as American citizens, I have to admit they are not the most
sympathetic immigrants. They have made mistakes, and sometimes very
big ones. We saw men with drug problems, men who had committed multiple
robberies and thefts, and men who had physically harmed their loved
ones while they were abusing drugs. These are not men that would
normally pull at the heart strings. These same men, though, when
they told their stories made me realize how close their life stories
were with ours. One young man was in an overly stressful job and
started to take stimulants to help him get through the day. Soon,
he was hooked on drugs, committing crimes, and landed in jail. His
elderly father fainted and spent three days in the hospital when
his son called him from jail. He had come to the US at such a young
age that he knew nothing of his home country and had no one there
to help him if he was to be deported.
got hooked on drugs after being prescribed strong painkillers after
surgery. He became abusive with his wife of 25 years and found himself
in jail. While serving his time he had gone to substance abuse support
meetings, gotten clean, and was committed to proving to his wife
that he was the man she had married. When he described how much
he loved his wife and how much he regretted all the things he had
done to hurt her, I could see how sincere he was and how much he
wanted just one chance to make his life right.
with these two men and four others, we left the detention center
for the day. I felt very strongly that spending a week helping our
supervising attorney was just not enough. I had a strong desire
to stay and help the clients we had met with. It wasn't only that
their stories were sympathetic. What motivated me even more was
that it was clear that both of these men would not win their cases
without legal assistance, and that with about 10 or 20 hours of
legal coaching and assistance they would have a much stronger case
that would have a decent chance of success. It tormented me to think
that 20 hours of work could be the difference between each of these
men being returned to their home countries and having their lives
and families torn apart, and having them get a second chance. They
would not get this 20 hours of help, and most likely would be returned
to their native countries. While I realized that each of the men
we saw at the detention center had made a mistake, the price that
they were paying for their mistakes seemed grossly disproportionate.
After having paid their debt to society with time in jail as Americans
would, they were then held in immigration detention for months or
a year or more before being permanently returned to their native
countries. After being deported they would likely never be able
to return to the United States. Had these men had legal representation,
they could have presented their best case and had the judge decide
whether or not they deserved this second chance. Without this representation,
though, they would not get their proper chance to present their
best case, and, as a result, would likely lose.
at the detention center was enhanced by our supervising attorney,
Boston College Law School graduate Patricia Mejia. Ms. Mejia was
an inspiring example of how an attorney can do rewarding work, make
a decent living and still do a substantial amount of pro bono work.
Ms. Mejia is a solo practitioner who takes on many pro bono cases
at the detention center in addition to her other immigration cases.
She took an entire week out of her schedule to provide us with a
rich experience working on different types of immigration cases.
Her willingness to take such a large amount of time out of her normal
schedule and the substantial commitment that she has made to pro
bono work were inspiring to me. Ms. Mejia's example
showed me how I could shape my own career in immigration law to
make a career for myself that could provide for me and my family
financially, sustain my intellectual curiosity for many years, and
be emotionally fulfilling to me.
Parcan , February 2005
Reflections on Working for FIAC in Miami
To begin with,
I have to say that the trip we took absolutely surpassed my expectations
in every sense of the word. Of course, spending a week in Miami
with the weather being at a constant 80 degrees was a very pleasant
respite from the early March weather one usually experiences in
the Boston area, but I can honestly also say that the work I did
was both personally fulfilling and immensely interesting.
I spent our
brief time working for FIAC, an organization that provides legal
services to immigrants in the Miami area. While in the office, I
spent my time doing legal research for one of the attorneys there.
This involved doing research on the current country conditions in
Venezuela with the goal of helping our attorney make an innovative
legal argument that would allow her client to remain in the country
because of undue hardship she would experience upon returning to
her home country. It was extremely interesting work and I really
saw how far I had come in just my one short semester of studying
law at BC. I had done some immigration work before coming to law
school, but I was extremely surprised to find out how much my brief
legal training allowed my to really get my head around the issues
in question and ultimately formulate an objective memo which I presented
to my attorney at the end of the week.
most moving part of the entire experience was getting the opportunity
to visit inmates in the local detention center. I was given the
opportunity to tag along with another FIAC attorney while he went
to counsel a number of inmates in a sort of informal question and
answer setting. It was truly a touching experience to see the looks
in the eyes of these people, most of whom could not afford any other
legal representation. It was also quite touching in that many of
the people thought of me as another lawyer and were asking me questions
themselves. At the end of the question and answer period, one of
the people there, a man from Chile I believe, even said to me, "Thank
you, for all the work that you do. We all need your help and appreciate
it from the bottom of our hearts." It was genuinely moving.
while at the detention center, I was given the opportunity to watch
as a FIAC attorney did one-on-one client counseling sessions with
inmates. I learned so much just by sitting there as the lawyer went
through the basics of the cases that he was formulating with the
inmates. It was also tremendous to be able to sort of put individual
faces to many of these people whose rights are virtually nonexistent.
It's one thing to read cases, like so many of us have so far this
year, but what one frequently forgets, I think, is that these cases
often involve real people with often pressing legal problems. In
that sense, I believe I got the chance to really experience what
the legal profession is all about instead of just reading about
it in a case book. That, to me, was a very significant and moving
also got the chance to attend a number of hearings throughout the
week. Most of the time, these involved large numbers of people going
to court to sort of set up their cases in front of a judge. The
lawyers at FIAC called these "cattle-calls", presumably
because they were fairly impersonal and involved large numbers of
hearings at the same time. This was also an extremely enlightening
experience. We got the chance to really see the legal system in
motion and were exposed to the actual procedures that one goes through
in immigration court.
Overall, I would
genuinely recommend such a trip to any first year law student. For
me, personally, as someone who has a very keen interest in immigration
law, it was absolutely tremendous to get the opportunity to experience
the work of an immigration lawyer first hand and really get to experience
the legal process through the eyes of people who really need our
help. However, even just as a learning experience, I would recommend
the trip to absolutely anyone. I feel almost as
though I learned more about the legal process in one week than I
learned in a semester of law school. In and of itself, that makes
the trip worthwhile to anyone.
Cantu, February 2005
First and foremost
I am thankful for having
had the opportunity to participate in this year's Immigration Law
Trip - it is truly one of the most powerful experiences I have ever
had. My group and I traveled to Harlingen, Texas and volunteer with
ProBAR, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing legal informaion,
aid, and representation to detainees being held at the local detention
center (Port Isabel), as well as immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley.
ProBAR was a
wonderful place to volunteer, and I would definitely recommend that
future trips work with this organization. Not only are the attorneys
and paralegals that work at ProBAR very committed their work and
willing to provide advice and guidance, but there is such a pressing
need for manpower that my group was broken down, assigned cases,
and given hands on work on the first day. During the course of the
week my partner and I worked exclusively on the case of my client,
a Guatemalan woman with a ten-year-old son seeking withholding of
removal. My client feared returning to Guatemala because of the
long history of brutal domestic abuse she suffered at the hands
of her husband - who will likely kill her if she is retuned to Guatemala.
Our primary duty was to interview our client (at the detention center
itself) and translating her testimony from Spanish to English in
order to write an affadavit on her behalf. In addition to the affadivit
we prepared a packet of supporting documents (e.g. country conditions,
cases, U.N. conventions on abuse and torture, etc.) for submidssion
to the court.
Going into this
experience, I had some theoretical understanding or pre-conception
of the immigration process and the conditions that detainees experience.
That said, volunteering at ProBAR gave me a very real, concrete
awareness of the realities of detention. In my opinion, the conditions
are cruel and dehuminizing, and frankly, I am appalled that they
are treated like criminals and housed in quasi-jails. I am also
appalled at the intransparency of the immigraiton system; it seems
unjust to throw someone into proceedings without guaranteeing that
they have representation and ensuring that they understand their
options and the future effects of their proceedings.
the precarious nature of my client's position and her heartbreaking
story made the trip emotionally draining, it was an extremely valuable
experience. First, I am satisfied that I was able to give of my
time and training to help someone, give them some hope, and have
an effect on someone's life. This immigration law trip was the first
time I have been able to actually apply what I am learning in the
classroom in a real-world situation; it's incredibly motivating.
trip made me wish that more of my colleagues (and that the legal
profession) in general were less business oriented and more civic-minded.
My time at ProBAR highlighted the fact that the law is the most
powerful tool we have at our disposal to protect democracy (and
democratic principles like liberty, equality, and justice).
trip definitely reaffirmed in my mind the need for legal access,
and the need for attorneys to give their time to fight for the powerless
and provide them the legal means to defend themselves.
trip reminded me that I must be thankful for the right and privileges
that I enjoy as a U.S. citizen, and that it is essentially an accident
of birth. U.S. law affords citizens and nationals many liberties
and guarantees, but does not extend them to people in general. I
see an troubling hypocricy in Americans promoting democratic ideals
and decrying other countries for human rights violations, but not
fully enforcing them within own borders.
Fifth, it was
encouraging to see attorneys giving their time in a pro bono/public
interest capacity. This trip reaffirmed my commitment to public
interest law, and has given me renewed energy to resist
the general pressures to "go corporate." Indeed, this
summer I be working at the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation
Project in order to give more of my time and to explore whether
this is an area that I want to work in after I graduate.
Sadler, February 2005
Reflections on Immigration Trip
I had three
take aways from this trip:
- This trip
solidified my hatred of the American penal system. What a joke
it is to say that jail is for rehabilitation. It is for caging
"animals and unfit riffraff." I was obviously most affected
by the visit to the Piedmont Correctional Facility in Farmville,
VA. There housed in a large room were over 100 men of all ages
awaiting deportation. Most were finished serving a conviction
for drug possession (another joke, the war on drugs is as fictitious
as the war on terror). I listened to their stories and actually
did not believe many of them, nor did I think that they necessarily
deserved to stay. Some had made a mistake and as a consequences
would lose there green card or visa status, some had crossed illegally
and were being sent back. One man who had been here since 1957,
and despite his whole family holding United States Citizenship
would likely be sent back home for a (large) drug conviction.
I am not apologizing or absolving them of mistakes but it was
an illustration to me of the silliness that passes for the thought
of learned men. Who came up with these incomprehensible, ever-changing,
and disjointed rules? Why pretend that the American ideal was
ever real? "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming
shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift
my lamp beside the golden door." Hell no we don't want them,
sorry No Vacancy. We attack supply like that has worked so well
in any field, drugs, economics, etc. But I digress.
- I was immediately
called upon to interact with clients at the jail as well as over
the phone. I authored an advocacy memo, as well as structure interview
questions. It was a great experience but when you work for poor
clients you are given a wake up, I had very little guidance in
my placement. That of course is not from lack of access to the
one full time lawyer in the office, I often asked questions of
my guide for the week, but with so much to do, so much to accomplish
you are largely autonomous out of necessity. I loved the work.
It put a reason behind the research, a purpose behind the writing
and arguments. I was enthralled and entranced with the idea that
what I did today would be used to help someone stay in the greatest
country on Earth (although that isn't saying too much). I spent
the entire time in my chair working because I was helping someone.
The week just went by so quick and having Monday off for President's
Day shortened the week too much I felt like I was just getting
into a groove when I had to leave.
- I was amazed
at the skill and proficiency of Mary Holper. She was a truly committed
and worthy teacher and mentor. Her love for what she was doing
shined through the whole week. While I do not believe I will pursue
a career in immigrant's rights, it was an experience I would not
hesitate to do again. I hope I can find an area of law that I
will enjoy as much as Mary enjoys working in this field.