by Linette Salcedo
In my short time being a law student I have learned one thing: the world of law practice can be very difficult. Immigration law in particular has many challenges and roadblocks as a result of the fact that the law is always changing. Besides this, it can be very emotionally draining to care so deeply but only be able to do so much. It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of this work, but this trip has helped me gain a new perspective on just how amazing immigration law really is. In particular, the activities that we participated in on Tuesday and Friday really ingrained in me a sense of reassurance in my decision to practice immigration law in the future.
How profound is it that this organization has thought out every detail in order to ensure that everyone gets to their respective locations safe, sound, educated on their rights, fed, and clothed?
The morning began with a quick bagel run to buy bagels for everyone at the office; a thoughtful gesture that our professor came up with. Earlier in the week, I was assigned the task of drafting a dependency petition for a Special Immigrant Juvenile case. I had submitted a draft to the attorney the day prior, and this morning I had the opportunity to meet the minor we would be helping. As the attorney asked him more questions about his experience in his country of origin, I began to realize that the child would slightly cower to hide his line of vision when answering the difficult questions. This really made me think about how attorneys need to be trauma informed and show empathy as they speak with their clients, something which the attorney did very well. Although it was a difficult conversation to have, I was inspired by the child’s bravery in being able to recount his trauma.
After this, we all went to a monastery were the Casa Alitas organization currently uses to provide temporary shelter for immigrants who have just arrived in the United States. Witnessing this whole program has been one of the most uplifting parts of the whole trip for me. Seeing how many volunteers are helping there has been amazing. The program is set up in a beautiful monastery whose every room and corner are used for something whether it be for sleeping, dining, setting up transportation, or getting clothing, it is all there. Our task was to give a Know Your Rights presentation based on materials and guidance provided by the Florence Project team. This first called for us to gather people who were waiting in the halls and invite them to the session. When people finally got to the “comedor” or dining hall, I was waiting there with Professor Parker when almost immediately, a toddler ran up to grab my hand and pull me towards the tables. It is pretty amazing to see just how strong little children can be; he wouldn’t let go. As he kept pulling me further towards the kitchen, more people started to trickle into the dining hall. As we presented, everyone listened attentively to the information we shared with them regarding what they should do if they are ever stopped by police, how to check when their court date will be, what rights they have when it comes to searches, etc. Everyone seemed to be very appreciative of the information we presented to them. However, the one moment that touched me the most was when the staff asked if anyone in the group was leaving that night. One person raised their hand and the staff member then told them to let the kitchen staff know how many days their journey would be in order to pack enough food for them. How profound is it that this organization has thought out every detail in order to ensure that everyone gets to their respective locations safe, sound, educated on their rights, fed, and clothed? Seeing just how amazing this organization is has showed me that there is hope amidst this great big world of disappointments and defeat.
Besides this, on Friday the attorneys introduced us to some of their clients who are currently in a juvenile shelter. We all introduced ourselves as law students who were interested in working with immigrant youth in the future. Then they all went around timidly stating their names, city of origin, and language skills. Then, one of the boys, evidently nervous and shy, took the moment to thank all of us for choosing to dedicate ourselves to help people like him and others who may come after him. Despite the fact that his peers were staring and giggling, he went on and shared his heartfelt thank you and this clearly touched everyone in the room who has chosen this often-difficult area of law. These are the small moments that make it all worth it.
Furthermore, this week of working alongside such dedicated attorneys and legal assistants who fight on despite the challenges and set backs, has been extremely encouraging. I am also extremely inspired by my peers and professors who selflessly decided to spend their time and energy immersing themselves in this work during Spring Break. Overall, witnessing all of these little moments of compassion on behalf of the attorneys, clients, and my peers has encouraged me to continue pursuing a career in the immigration law; an area of law that is full of individuals with such caring hearts and resilient spirits.