Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Spring 2016 students Reid Gardner (JD ’17) and Alice Hall-Partyka (JD ’17) share their experience working with their client seeking asylum in the United States.
During the Spring 2016 quarter, we worked with E, a courageous woman from Central America who is seeking asylum.
In her home country, E witnessed a brutal murder committed by a powerful gang and a corrupt police officer. She was targeted and severely harmed as a result of being a witness to the crime. Despite having been victimized, she attempted to pursue justice, even knowing she could never be safe again in her home country. E ultimately moved her children to a different part of the country and then fled to the United States.
When we first met E, she was emotionally and physically closed off and nervous about telling her story. We were determined to help her feel comfortable so that she could tell us her story in order for us present the strongest asylum case possible. Using techniques to build trust and rapport, we met with E each week for two hours. As the weeks went on we developed an incredibly strong bond. Our meetings became weekly highlights, both for us and for her.
One of our assignments for the quarter was to represent E at her preliminary hearing, where we would discuss statutory eligibility issues and schedule a final merits hearing, at which point E would get to tell her story and present evidence to the Judge. After much consideration, we decided to ask the Judge if he would give us a date for the merits hearing during the following winter quarter (2017). This was a big deal because the Court is scheduling hearings for 2019 and beyond. If the Judge agreed to give us an expedited hearing date, we decided we would stay on as advanced clinic students to continue working on the case.
In addition to preparing for push back from the Judge on requesting an expedited hearing, we were also preparing for some potential legal issues about E’s eligibility for asylum. Asylum laws require that the person apply for asylum within one year of their entry. E had tried to file her application within one year of her entry, but it had been rejected.
The hearing went wonderfully. As to the scheduling, we convinced the Judge that it was appropriate to give us an “expedited” hearing. This means that we will continue to represent E as advanced clinic students and that we will see her case through to completion! We also successfully demonstrated to both the Judge and opposing counsel that E was statutorily eligible for asylum. In fact, the attorney for the government even conceded the legal issue. Our research, familiarity with the issue, and our extensive mooting paid off and the issue was put to rest.
It was a complete victory.
The look on E’s face after the hearing was incredibly rewarding. We are thrilled to continue working with this inspiring woman over the next year and be with her through the asylum process.