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UDC Law Students Travel to Expand Access to Justice and Rights for Detained Immigrants

Friday, October 25, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: UDC Law Staff
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Group shot of 4 students outside
UDC Law students, from left, Jamila Hubbard, Alexis Tolson, Shanté McWhite and Stephanie Dalecki pose for a photo on the way to Farmville, Va., to assist CAIR Coalition at detention center for immigrant men, Oct. 11, 2019.

This fall, eight students in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) students traveled to Farmville, Virginia, to spend a day volunteering inside a detention center for immigrant men. The clinic, under the leadership of Associate Professor and Clinic Co-Director Lindsay M. Harris, partnered with CAIR Coalition, the only non-profit focused on providing services to detained immigrants in the D.C. metro area.

Students enrolled in the clinic have been building their knowledge of ever-changing immigration law and policy since the beginning of the semester and honing their interviewing skills to prepare for the trip. CAIR Coalition came to campus and trained clinic students, first year Clinical Associates completing Law and Justice hours and members of the public the week before the jail visits.

During the week of Oct. 11, clinic students trekked the three and a half hours each way to the Farmville detention center to volunteer all day within the jail. Harris said of the visit, “This is an intense experience. Students leave UDC Law at five in the morning to get to the detention center by the time it opens, but their assistance is critical. Detention centers are purposely located outside of major metropolitan areas where immigrants would have access to counsel.” Access to counsel in immigration detention is woefully low, with a national study from 2012-2017 finding only 14% of detained individuals secured legal representation.

Students conducted intake interviews, often working in Spanish, and shared information about the legal process with detained individuals. The student group traveling on Friday, including Stephanie Dalecki ’20, Jamila Hubbard ’20, Alexis Tolson ’20 and Shante McWhite ’20, even conducted mock hearings to prepared detained individuals for the bond process in immigration court.

CAIR Coalition Senior Legal Assistant Bridget Pranzatelli shared that the students were the “best fake judge and fake prosecutors Farmville has ever seen.” Pranzatelli mentioned that third year law student Jamila Hubbard really stood out and acted as “basically a staff member,” and the organization plans to implement a “Jamila-based” system for volunteers moving forward.

Era Kryeziu ’20 was struck by meeting one young man in particular. “The young man was from El Salvador but came to the United States when he was three years old,” Kryeziu explained. “He had a DUI and as a result was facing deportation to a country he did not even remember. What broke my heart was that his undocumented family members were too afraid to even come and visit him in detention.”

The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic is representing individual asylum seekers living in D.C., Virginia and Maryland this semester from Venezuela, Honduras, Uganda, Republic of Congo and Pakistan. Students will represent asylum seekers in immigration court in Arlington, Virginia, and in asylum interviews before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Arlington asylum office.

Any UDC Law students, graduates, or community members interested in volunteering with CAIR Coalition should visit their website to learn more about their program.


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