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Lewis & Clark Law Students Recognized for Pro Bono Work at the Border

May 14, 2018

Cecilia Anguiano ’18 and Favio Perez ’18 were recognized by Dean Jennifer Johnson at the 2018 Student Recognition Lunch for their pro bono immigration work assisting CARA Family Immigration Pro Bono attorneys at two Texas detention centers. The Immigration Student Group (ISG) members have made nine trips to the centers and helped hundreds of women and children seeking asylum from violence and abuse by maras, violent organizations that control large regions of the Northern Triangle of Central America.

“These students’ volunteer work for refugee women and children illustrates selfless and dedicated advocacy, extraordinary leadership. Their work has had a life-saving impact and enabled refugees to access rights to be free from detention and reunite with family members,” said Dean Johnson. The students raised their own money for the trips and spent spring and winter breaks preparing clients for preliminary asylum interviews.

The students were determined to aid asylum-seeking mothers and children subjected to a recent policy of detaining children that was implemented in 2014. According to Juliet Stumpf, Robert E. Jones Professor of Advocacy and Ethics, immigrants were rarely detained prior to the 1980s and families with children were routinely released to await their asylum hearing dates with relatives or friends.

“Removals of noncitizens rose from under 43,000 in 1993 to more than 430,000 in 2014,” said Stumpf. “Funding for federal immigration enforcement is now 24 percent higher than funding for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.”

“The work is grueling, lasting 10-12 hours per day, and emotionally draining because of the intense sharing of the raw, ugly, human substance of persecution. It is conducted in a trailer in the middle of the Texas desert with few resources,” said Johnson.

Anguiano and Perez also worked to recruit and train student volunteers from the law school to help them serve the families. On their last trip in December 2017, not only did the brigade of volunteers prepare over 100 women for asylum interviews and conduct about 300 Know-Your-Rights trainings for mothers, they personally helped a newly freed woman and her child get to the bus station and assisted four released families in navigating the airport.

When a detained asylum-seeking mother was seeking medical help for her sick daughter, the detention center’s medical staff refused to provide care. The students took an affidavit from the mother and gave it to the CARA attorneys who used it to advocate for their release.

After Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) misinformed the family about their release date and the volunteers intervened again, the family was finally released on Christmas Eve. “It was the best Christmas gift ever,” said Perez.

Amy Adams ’17, an alum who worked with the honored students last year, upgraded the family’s plane tickets to first class with her own money so that they could enjoy Christmas after their release together.

“These student volunteers are amazing natural advocates,” said Kate Edwards ’17, an alum who worked with Anguiano and Perez in Texas. “They are both kind and gentle, and explain everything to the clients very patiently and with impressive competence,” She said. “They interact with clients as if they are seasoned pros, not students.”

For more details about Lewis & Clark’s involvement with the CARA program, contact Professor Juliet Stumpf. To assist students with their next trip to Dilley, Texas, donate through the ISG’s GoFundMe page.

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