There is something satisfying about helping those who are less fortunate. That can be especially true when those individuals are children. This sentiment is most likely appropriate for all those who work at the University of Baltimore School of Law's Immigrant Rights Clinic.
Over the last two years, the clinic's director, Elizabeth Keyes, has worked with many immigrants who are in the U.S. without documentation, but hope to remain here. Although any successful case could be considered gratifying, Keyes notes that “some of the most compelling cases are those of children who cross the U.S. border [without documentation], sometimes without family members accompanying them, and often fleeing gang violence.” The full article is available here.
This particular law clinic is described on the school’s website as an opportunity for students to gain experience on a variety of issues including “written filings for crime survivors (domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes) that are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to asylum and other matters that are heard in Baltimore's immigration court.”
Keyes says that cases involving children are “incredibly rewarding,” but they can also lead to troubling moral and ethical questions. One question that is on Keyes's mind is “Why are we putting so many resources to bear to send these kids back to places where they could be harmed?”
That question posed by Keyes is worth considering at length. Since October of last year, there have been in excess of 52,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is a dramatic increase from years past. The increase is so severe, it has led President Obama to label it a “humanitarian crisis.”
The law school's clinic shares office space with the Baltimore branch of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND is a “nonprofit organization that seeks to ensure no unaccompanied immigrant minor must appear in immigration court without representation.” After an immigrant child is processed, they are often released to family members while they wait for their hearing. They may wait months or even years before they are seen by an immigration judge. Keyes said that “organizations like KIND and others have pretty good success at getting representation for the kids.”
A recent graduate from the University of Baltimore School of Law is Hayley Tamburello. Tamburello participated in the Immigrant Rights Clinic and is now planning on opening her own practice that focuses on immigration law. She finds working with juveniles to be gratifying and says that she has found “that a lot of the reasons for coming to the U.S. are what you see on the news right now, the gang violence. It's difficult to get stories out of the children, for them to open up and tell what's going on.”
It is unlikely that Tamburello will be able to devote her entire practice to serving immigrant children, but that would be her preference. “If I could do juvenile cases all day, that's what I would do,” she said.