On March 7, 2020, eight law students, accompanied by Professors Lynette Parker and Evangeline Abriel, spent their spring break week volunteering at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona. These inspiring students were S. Coleman, Chloe Czabaranek, Osvaldo Hidalgo Otamendi, Rigoberto Lua, Vasti Montiel, Ruby Palomares, Deisy Salas, and Victor Valdez Gonzalez. During the week, they worked with detained, pro se asylum seekers to complete asylum applications, researched country conditions to support the applications, researched a number of intricate legal issues, made phone calls to arrange placements for minor immigrants, met with the dedicated Florence Project attorneys and staff, and observed court proceedings. The students recorded their experiences in the following blogs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

On Wednesday morning, the kids team went to the Pima County Juvenile Court Center to observe a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status predicate (dependency) hearing on behalf of an unaccompanied minor with children’s program attorney Rebecca Curtiss from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. The team was able to sit in the courtroom during the proceedings before the presiding judge, the Honorable Kathleen Quigley.

The proceedings began with the court interpreter calling the dependent child’s mother in her home country. The telephone connection was weak, and she could not hear the interpreter’s communications about the court proceedings, so they had to call back to establish a better connection. If the mother was unable to be part of the dependency hearing that day, the court would have to reschedule. Once a better connection was established, the Judge proceeded with introducing the parties and describing the nature of the proceedings. The Judge appointed an attorney to represent the child’s mother and then scheduled a mediation session for April, when the child’s case would be discussed with the mother present via telephone and interpreter again. During the proceedings, the interpreter simultaneously translated the communications of the judge, the mother’s court- appointed attorney, and the child’s attorney, Ms. Curtiss.

Once the proceedings concluded, we were able to have a quick word with the judge, who was very kind and interested in explaining the Dependency hearing process for unaccompanied minors.

Kids Team (minus Professor Parker) outside of the Prima County Juvenile Court Center

Pictured: Kids Team (minus Professor Parker) outside of the Prima County Juvenile Court Center

After the kids’ team went back to the Florence Project’s office in Tucson to work on individual research projects that were due by the end of the week.