By Yun Sun
March 16,2023

Today, I had the privilege of observing proceedings at the Immigration Court inside the Eloy Detention Center. This was a unique and eye-opening experience that shed light on the complexity of our immigration system.

Eloy Detention Center. Picture obtained from the internet. (By Tom Tingle/The Republic. From USA Today.)

Eloy Detention Center. Picture obtained from the internet. (From Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.)

During the proceedings, I observed how an immigration judge carefully administered the law. It was evident that the judge made a concerted effort to ensure that the respondent understood their options and the consequences of their decisions. One respondent, who did not have legal counsel, appeared to be eligible for a 10-year cancellation, but declined the opportunity to apply. The Judge patiently explained the consequences of the respondent’s decision while making it clear that he was not convincing the respondent to change his decision, but simply trying to help the respondent make an informed decision. He also thoroughly explained the requirements of applying for a 10-year cancellation. The non-English speaking respondent had to fill out an English application within two weeks while in detention and then wait more than one month for the merit hearing. Ultimately, the respondent decided not to file an application. 

The experience was emotionally impactful as I felt empathy for the respondent and the other individuals in the detention center. I recognized that they were facing immense challenges and their futures were uncertain.

This experience underscored the importance of access to legal representation, resources, and education for all individuals who find themselves entangled in the immigration system. It also highlighted the need for systemic change and reform that will make the system more just and equitable for all.

As a law student, this spring border service trip was an invaluable opportunity for me to gain real-world experience and witness firsthand the complexities of the legal system. It made me reflect on my potential future role as an immigration attorney, where I must respect my clients’ decisions and understand that they have their reasons. I cannot make decisions for my clients but can only help them make informed decisions.

Thanks to the support of generous donors, I was able to embark on this journey. It’s important for future attorneys to go into the field and experience the intricacies of the legal system. I extend my deepest gratitude to the donors who made this trip possible, and I look forward to continuing my work serving those in need.