By Claire R. Thomas
On Monday, November 3rd, Safe Passage Staff Attorneys Desireé C. Hernandez and Claire R. Thomas, along with New York Law School students Gonzalo Landaverde (2L), Devi Patel (3L), and Carlos Valenzuela (2L), presented a training for law students on how to volunteer to assist unaccompanied children. This training focused on helping both with screening young people at the New York Immigration Court and with volunteering to assist Safe Passage and pro bono attorneys outside of court. Over thirty law students from law schools throughout the New York City area attended the training, which included a mock intake interview for a young person and mock Immigration Court Master Calendar Hearing.
The training began with an overview presentation by Claire on the Safe Passage Project and how children travel to the United States. Claire then explained the new “surge” or “priority” dockets for unaccompanied children in Immigration Court and the role of Safe Passage volunteers in the courtroom.
The mock intake interview walked law students through the actual screening form that volunteer attorneys use when meeting with young people and conducting an intake interview at immigration court. Law students Gonzalo, Devi, and Carlos modeled other issues that arise during these intake interviews, such as attorneys asking compound questions which young people do not understand and difficulties with working with interpreters. Next, during the mock Immigration Court hearing, Devi played the role of the law student acting as a “Friend of the Court” and speaking on behalf of an immigrant child under Professor Lenni Benson’s supervision. Claire played the role of the Immigration Judge and Desireé acted at the attorney for the government.
Afterwards, Gonzalo, Devi, and Carlos shared their experiences as volunteers and interns with Safe Passage with the audience. They discussed how they serve in a variety of different capacities, from interpreters to research assistants to accompanying young people to necessary appointments for their immigration cases. In order to facilitate discussion, they then presented questions commonly asked by their peers to Claire and Desireé.
The event was a success thanks to the hard work of all involved. Many thanks to Gonzalo, Devi, and Carlos for their dedication to Safe Passage and to continuously going above and beyond!