Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Student Offers Perspectives on First Client Meeting

Drew Alvarez, ’22 was part of a student team with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic that represented an undocumented person.

Going into the interview, we knew we would have to cover many personal or sensitive topics in detail in order to have the evidence necessary to succeed in our client’s case. However, we weren’t sure how our client, P, would respond to being asked some of the things we planned on discussing. Would he feel that we were prying? Would he wonder what his baby’s sleeping patterns possibly have to do with his immigration case?  Despite our concerns, my partner and I were both grateful and a little surprised that P was as open and receptive to our approach as he was. This was in part due to our preparation, and in part due to our teamwork during the meeting.

Throughout the interview, my clinic partner and I acted as allies for each other, especially in moments when P shared sensitive information that neither of us had anticipated (for example, regarding his family’s experience with COVID). Following these disclosures, there were pauses as the person who had been speaking stopped to process the information and decide how to respond. At these points, the other person was able to step in with a short follow-up question or to engage in some active listening. I believe this was effective both to put P at ease and to allow the other person to get his bearings and move forward with the topic at hand.

Going into the interview, my clinic partner and I nervously wondered if we would move through the topics we had outlined too quickly, but within a few minutes of the interview beginning we were happy to learn that we would have the opposite problem. Looking back, it was perhaps obvious that P would react this way. P is very on top of his case and focused on putting himself in the best position he can to achieve a favorable outcome for himself and his family. This is also something he seemed to want to communicate during the interview. When we were wrapping up the interview and asked if he had any questions, he only asked whether there was anything he could do right now to help his case. Our impression of P going into the interview was that of an attentive and concerned client, and this impression was only confirmed by his responses and reactions. What we hadn’t predicted, was how invested and collaborative P would turn out to be.

Drew Alvarez, ’21, was part of a student team that represented an undocumented person who has lived in the United States with his children and wife for decades. Drew and his partner met with P on multiple occasions to understand what occurred when P was previously unlawfully deported. As part of their clinic work, Drew and his partner investigated, researched, and prepared a complex brief on a novel legal issue of first impression.