Working With Community Partners: Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Student Team Reflects on Presentation of Toolkit to Criminal Defenders

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Immigrants’ Rights Clinic students Raven Quesenberry, ’22, Claire Fieldman, ’22, and Drew Alvarez, ’21

Students Raven Quesenberry, ’22,  Claire Fieldman, ’22, and Drew Alvarez, ’21, prepared an informational toolkit for criminal defenders representing clients that are a part of the Institutional Hearing Program, a program by the Department of Homeland Security that initiates deportation proceedings in state and federal prisons against noncitizens who are still serving time for criminal convictions.  Here, they reflect on their experience presenting their toolkit via Zoom to their community partner, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Raven Quesenberry

My clinic partners and I presented our proposed IHP toolkit to the Criminal Defender Roundtable and gauged feedback to inform future iterations of the toolkit.

In preparation, our team went through multiple rounds of edits of our slides and speaker notes. I directed my intention towards thinking critically about meeting the concerns that our ILRC partners had raised. It was clear that defenders would need an end-product very practical and efficient. I was also mindful of being respectful and acknowledging expertise on the parts of the defenders. I found that although this required very carefully planning my tone, content, and especially how I would convey that IHP matters to practitioners, I ended up very glad I had done so because I felt that my words were precisely tailored to achieve my goals. Ultimately, we received a warm reaction and very positive feedback from the defenders — which affirmed for me that the exercise had been effective in striking the desired approach.

Claire Fieldman

 It was energizing to finally present our work to a larger audience and to receive input about the toolkit’s potential and utility, especially from attorneys that were learning about the program for the first time. There is a dearth of publicly accessible information about IHP, and the presentation reinforced the practical value of the toolkit we are developing.

One of the aspects of practicing immigration law that excites me is how collaborative and tight-knit the immigration bar seems. I am excited to eventually join this community as an attorney and to participate in future roundtables/trainings from a different perspective.

Drew Alvarez

The level of engagement and on-the-spot feedback we received from the roundtable participants was something that I did not expect going into the roundtable. Participants were engaged throughout the presentation, and as soon as we finished presenting, they began unmuting themselves on Zoom and asking questions. It reinforced for me the importance of this resource for criminal defenders and the relevance of IHP to their practice.

Additionally, as the only male-identifying person on my advocacy project team, presenting to a roundtable that appeared to be comprised overwhelmingly of female lawyers was a good opportunity to be mindful of my language in the way I responded to questions/feedback, and of not taking up too much space. This was especially valuable for me as someone who hopes to enter a practice area that has more gender diversity than the profession more broadly.