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UDC Law Volunteers Report Back on LLSA-Organized Advocacy Trip to the U.S.-Mexico Border

Monday, February 4, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: UDC Law Staff
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Group photo of speakers
From right: UDC Law students Flor Garay, ’20, Tulip Karki, ’19, Stephanie Kamey, ’21, joined by Sophie Macklem-Johnson and Diana Mateo, paralegals at the D.C.-based immigration law firm Benach Collopy LLP.

On Jan. 18, the law school community came together for a report-back on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis from a group of fourteen UDC Law students and alumni who traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border for a weeklong advocacy trip in December. The UDC Latino/a Law Student Association (LLSA) organized the advocacy trip as part of a national call for legal support to protect the rights of refugees arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The D.C. School of Law Foundation contributed funds to cover expenses.

Students on the panel portrayed the increasingly dire conditions at the San Ysidro and Chaparral border crossings, as tens of thousands of Central American refugees have fled worsening violence and political persecution in the region only to be turned away by U.S. border officials. Panelists related the many heart-wrenching stories shared by the refugees they encountered on the journey.

Participants prepared for the journey with a National Lawyers Guild D.C. Chapter training in legal observation techniques as well as an intensive asylum law workshop. In Tijuana, the UDC Law contingent partnered with Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance on the southern border, and local community organizers to monitor conditions on the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana. Students made daily visits to U.S. border facilities to conduct legal observation and document human rights violations by government officials, including the enforcement of an illegal “list” designed to deny refugees physical entry and prevent filing of asylum applications.

At the San Ysidro and Chaparral points of entry, volunteers conducted on-the-spot legal intake and advice to those few refugees permitted physical entry to better prepare them for credible fear interviews – often just moments before asylum seekers were handed over to U.S. immigration officials to conduct the interviews. Participating students also led a series of “know your rights” trainings and staffed asylum clinics at shelters, safe houses, and encampments temporarily housing those migrants denied sanctuary in the U.S. The volunteers also delivered critical supplies to a Tijuana-based shelter housing unaccompanied child, distributing food, hygiene products, and other necessities to the shelter, using funds contributed by the law school community.

The students attributed their success to skills they honed as student attorneys, taking advantage of UDC Law’s robust set of clinical and experiential programs. Students on the panel also singled out faculty whose teaching on culturally-sensitive lawyering and high-volume practice best prepared them for the challenges they encountered on the advocacy trip.


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