During the summer, I had the opportunity to assist clients on their U-Visa applications, custody hearings, and social security benefits. Specifically, my assignments included: compiling an answer to a Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Request for Evidence (RFE) as part of an application for a CIS grant of U Nonimmigrant Status to a client’s daughter; conducting research and speaking with attorneys throughout the United States on how to make an effective argument to CIS for the granting of humanitarian parole to the same daughter’s baby, an application that has only a 25% success rate; drafting personal declarations for two clients as part of their U-Visa applications and otherwise piecing together their applications; and conducting research on whether the Social Security Administration can extend the SSDI benefits of a client’s former partner to their daughter in common.
The busiest part of the summer saw me attempting to simultaneously assemble an application for humanitarian parole on the basis of family reunification and working with another intern, Claire Gartland, in the drafting and closing of a custody settlement agreement. CIS makes available an application that results not in admission but a temporary stay in the United States – humanitarian parole. The agency grants the application sparingly, most often for significant public benefit (e.g., bringing an alien to testify in court or for the purposes of family reunification). The research and communications of my supervisor, Lisa Martin, and I with other attorneys who have attempted the application informed us as to how to make the strongest case possible: international conventions on human rights and rights of children; our client’s story and the importance of her having her family together in order to help her recuperate from a history of domestic violence; the harsh conditions of our client’s home country, Honduras, and the possible effects of exposure to these conditions on the baby.
At the same time, Claire Gartland and I, under the supervision of Paul Kurth, had been working with another client and her ex-boyfriend, who was pro se, to agree on a custody settlement prior to the hearing. The process had demanded that we be persistent; that we explain the law in ways which our client could understand; that we remind our client, in light of her concern that in the short-term, the proposed settlement favored the defendant, that she had much to gain in the long term for having sole legal and physical custody of her children. At the 11th hour, we managed to have both parties sign an agreement, which a judge then later incorporated and merged into a custody order.
The main difference between the summer and the semester was the increased responsibility and accountability in managing a caseload. My experience during the spring semester saw me working with a partner, with whom I would split tasks, which concerned fewer clients. While working with a partner has many advantages, like seeing the work from a different perspective, the onus remains on one to involve himself in the other’s work, else he risk not learning what may be a crucial element of the task at hand. Working alone (under a supervisor, of course) allowed me to fully immerse myself in the work and therefore expand my knowledge and application of relevant law. Simultaneously, I was very appreciative of the opportunity to still work with a partner, especially in the custody case, in light of the increased workload and my lack of experience in handling a custody case.
The summer’s full immersion is not only a physical one in increased caseload; it is also a mental and emotional immersion which helped me to develop a closer connection with my clients and the subject matter of their cases. In our case for humanitarian parole, and even in the custody case, I had the opportunity to have an impact on the future of children. Our meetings with clients, especially when they bring their children, or merely speak about them, provide us a glimpse of what moves our clients; about whom they care. The demands of these cases, with so much at stake, helped to draw out some of the very best within me. This can, of course, mean working longer hours at times than I had expected, but my father’s simple reminder to me is “it’s what you signed up for!” which is more than fair, especially now that I think I have found my calling.
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