Clinic Students Reflect on Their Experience Representing Their Client in Immigration Court

Carolina Herrera: I was impressed with our client, F, our team, and thankful that the clinic has so many resources we could use to our benefit. During the hearing, I felt very in-sync with my clinic partner, Noelle, our client, and even our clinic supervisor, Lisa, who was sitting behind us. All of our practice and preparation meant that we were able to quickly and easily adapt to new questions from the judge and government attorney. It was an amazing experience. I am honored that I was able to conduct my first direct examination with F as my client. At the end of the hearing, she gave me a hug and held on saying how grateful and happy she was that we had represented her. I was grateful to have her as our first client, and, of course, I was thrilled with how positive the hearing went.  I have been thinking about how important it is as a lawyer to balance focusing on these types of cases, where the client has the likelihood of a positive outcome (especially with the assistance of a lawyer) with other cases that may face more obstacles, even with a lawyer. What was more than clear from my time with the Immigrants’ Right Clinic is that, given the workings and extreme challenges of the immigration system, the work is truly never done.

Noelle Smith: The many hours we put into preparing for the hearing were critical, but equally as important were the hours we spent crafting our filing, brief, and declarations to ensure they told a compelling story about F’s situation. I believe the judge walked into our hearing with a strong sense of F and her family. F brought her story to life through her testimony. But, providing the court with thorough, easy-to-access documentation that may have helped the court to view F’s case with sympathy became a key component of preparing for a curveball that we never foresaw. After the hearing, we were congratulated by our clinic peers for having done a great job at the hearing, but I truly felt that the congratulations should extend to our client. She has persevered through our immigration system for over a decade, all while caring for her children as a single mother. We are hopeful that our hard work, and our client’s resilience, will lead to a positive outcome in her case.

Carolina Herrera, JD ’21, and Noelle Smith, JD ’21 represented their client, F, as student attorneys in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic in the Winter 2020 quarter. Students prepared throughout the quarter to represent F at her final hearing in Immigration Court.