Difficult Topics: Preparing Our Client for Her Testimony at Trial


No matter how many times I had read C’s declaration, nothing had fully prepared me to listen to her describe the most difficult period of her life. Not only was listening to her description of the violence hard, but hearing her talk about the emotional impact it had on her was devastating. I had gotten to know C as such a self-assured woman, and listening to her talk about how her self-worth and self-confidence had been destroyed by her ex-partner was heartbreaking.

I knew that the legal standard for persecution is easier to meet if an asylum seeker has suffered abuse, and that it was important to the credibility of her case to discuss it during her in-person testimony. We wanted to give C space to tell her story as she wanted to. We also wanted to explain the legal standard, and why we were asking her to share such painful details with the judge. C thanked us for sharing and told us that she trusted our judgment. I’m glad that, even through these difficult moments of preparation, our client trusted us and knew we would do our best to represent her.

Anita Desai, JD ’22, and her clinic partner represented their asylum seeker client as student attorneys with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic in the spring 2021 quarter. In preparation for their client’s hearing, Anita and her partner conducted several moots to prepare their client for direct and cross-examination. They subsequently negotiated with opposing counsel regarding the scope of their client’s testimony. Near the end of the quarter, Anita and Tyler represented their client at her final hearing, where the immigration judge granted her asylum.