Advocacy at the Border

Posted Fri, 03/20/2020 - 09:40

Over spring break, students in the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic traveled to Nogales, Sonora, where they worked alongside the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) to provide legal assistance to migrants.

The KBI is a Jesuit organization that provides education, advocacy, and humanitarian aid services to migrants seeking asylum in the United States. While working with the KBI, law students witnessed first-hand the hardships that migrants face in being separated from their families and in obtaining a secure and safe place to live.

In Nogales, clinic students conducted immigration consultations for migrants who were awaiting their chance to present their asylum claims. “We saw an estimated 40-50 people a day looking for assistance or guidance. We explained to them the process of asylum in the United States and what they should expect in the next few months during the process” explains Nicole Gorney ‘20.

Working in Mexico was especially impactful for students. “When we were done with our workday, we were able to do in minutes what thousands of people are waiting months to try to get a chance to do. People are fleeing such dangerous situations, only to have to wait many months in just as dangerous towns in Mexico,” Gorney notes.

The fact that people are willing to endure this lengthy and arduous process in order to successfully receive asylum in the United States demonstrates the dire situations they are trying to escape. “The amount of obstacles migrants are facing right now to come to the United States and the stories we heard tell us one thing: they wouldn't be trying to do it if they weren't facing life or death situations.”

In addition to immigration consultations, students also recorded individual stories from asylum seekers to determine the strength of their asylum case. On the final day of the trip, clinic students and staff held an asylum application workshop where they worked with families to complete a lengthy application form.

The trip provided clinic students with robust hands-on experience as they prepare for futures as immigration law practitioners. Gorney notes that witnessing Professor Hing and Professor Brown Scott in action “was a constant reminder of how I want to be as a lawyer: knowledgeable, compassionate and dedicated.”