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Law Students Volunteer to Assist Asylum Seekers over Spring Break

DePaul Law students assisted asylum seekers detained in the southern United States at the Port Isabel Detention Center over spring break. Stephanie Gibbons (3L), Samantha McCoy (1L), Monica Saavedra (1L), and Ann Slusher (2L) volunteered with the Pro Bono Asylum and Representation Project (ProBAR) of the American Bar Association for one week in March 2019. The students worked in teams of two under attorney supervision to assist Pro Se asylum seekers prepare their cases to present in Immigration Court, including discussing relevant law, explaining application procedures, and vetting cases. “I wanted to participate in this trip to get firsthand experience on what is truly happening at the border, as well as to get hands-on experience working an asylum case,” said Samantha McCoy.

Student Volunteers on Spring Break

(Pictured left to right: Stephanie Gibbons, Monica Saavedra, Samantha McCoy, Annie Slusher)

Asylum seekers often have escaped religious or political persecution having suffered significant harms. Most arrive to the United States with little or no funds to afford private counsel. Asylum seekers also experience language barriers and a lack of familiarity with U.S. immigration law and court procedures. These significant obstacles make it challenging to obtain asylum protection in the United States. With representation or even Pro Se support, like the support the DePaul Law students provided this spring break, however, someone’s chance of establishing an asylum claim can increase by 500%. “Working with my client at the Port Isabel Detention Center was a humbling experience and I am proud that I was able to help complete her application so that she is fully capable of presenting her case for asylum,” said Monica Saavedra.

The DePaul Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic has led groups of law students on service trips to volunteer with ProBAR for over 15 years supporting DePaul’s Vincentian values of compassionate service and advocacy for the poor while advancing the students’ legal education. Annie Slusher shared, “this trip supported my legal education because I was able to further understand the asylum process through practical experience and practice interviewing skills with an interpreter while advocating for justice for an asylum seeker.”

The DePaul Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic currently offers two courses: the yearlong asylum clinic, and the semester-long immigration clinic, where students represent clients in their legal matters under attorney supervision. The Clinic also collaborates with over 30 community-based organizations throughout Illinois to compliment the provision of affordable immigration-related legal services. Find more information here:​​