Pro Bono Project expands its focus on immigration issues

I was very excited when I found out that the Pro Bono Project was expanding its areas of focus to include immigration.  I was even more excited when I was appointed as the Immigration Group Projects Coordinator. I knew that there were students with a passion for immigration law, and some who thought that they may have an interest in immigration law, but were unsure about where to gain experience in the field.

Fortunately, through the Pro Bono Project, students were able to volunteer at two major events during the semester, and were grateful for the different experiences.  Alison Lester (’15) said, “Pro Bono immigration projects are a beneficial and rewarding experience for both students and the community. By volunteering at the Church World Service naturalization clinic, I was able to observe and assist in a legal process that greatly enhanced another’s life and well-being. These projects are an invaluable way to see how the law can make a positive difference in a deserving individual’s life.”

On Nov. 3, five student volunteers made a trip to Church World Service (CWS) in Greensboro to assist at a naturalization clinic.  Kelly White, Supervising Attorney at the Immigration and Refugee Program of CWS Greensboro expressed her thanks,  “Church World Service (“CWS”) would like to thank the Wake Forest Law School Pro Bono students for their participation in the Naturalization Clinic.  Thanks to you all, we were able to screen 29 people, many who will be naturalizing in February 2013!”

Students were also impacted by the experience. Caro Demeugeot (’14) shared, “This clinic was extremely practical and it taught me a lot about the intricacies of the naturalization process.  As law students we rarely get the opportunity to sit across the table from clients in need, but this clinic enabled us to do so, which was very rewarding and interesting.”

Additionally, on Nov. 10, under the leadership and supervision of Professor Margaret Taylor, several student volunteers and attorney volunteers came together to assist Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem. During the four-hour period, volunteers assisted 15  young students through the process of screening, completing applications, and reviewing documents in hopes of ensuring that the applicants receive temporary relief in the form of being considered “low priority” for immigration enforcement, and therefore deferring their removal from the country.

In her reflection of the event, Bahati Mutisya (’15) said, “I learned first-hand about the challenges facing immigrants in the United States.” She recalls a specific applicant fondly.  “I met a high school junior with plans to attend college and open her own restaurant to contribute to America’s culture and economy. This was a reminder that immigration laws, while aimed at protecting America’s borders, must also protect the rights of immigrants and allow America to benefit from the contributions of people like this young woman.”

A few other students were also able to work on DACA applications at Church World Service. One such student, Jennifer Tello, had this to say, “The few hours I spent at Church World Service provided one of the most practical and rewarding law experiences I’ve had so far. I was able to work with clients from start to finish on their applications for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. I interviewed the clients, filled out the paperwork, and compiled their supporting documents. It was exciting to gain practical experience in my area of interest, as well as to help these young people receive a benefit that will enable them to work, study, support their families, and achieve their goals.”

Participating in these events was fun and rewarding and students are already looking forward to the spring semester’s immigration efforts!