Safe Passage Justice AmeriCorps Fellows Training in Virginia

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From November 30 to December 4, 2015, our justice AmeriCorps fellows had the privilege to attend a national training in Leesburg, Virginia.  This training was the second of its kind as the justice AmeriCorps program began its second year of service. There, the fellows received comprehensive training in the field of immigration and asylum law, as well as tips in best practices and research methods. The training provided our fellows with a holistic perspective. This perspective better prepared them for the challenges they may face this coming year. Moreover, our fellows had the honor of meeting service members from around the country and were provided the opportunity to forge valuable connections with a vast advocacy network.

As part of the training, the Department of Justice coordinated with the Executive Office of Immigration Review to bring member of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, attorneys from ICE’s Office of Chief Counsel, asylum officers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to supervise mock exercises of proceedings that the fellows will encounter during their year of service. This invaluable access provided the fellows with the opportunity to practice their methods and improve them with insights provided by key figures in the field of immigration. These relationships and insights will help the fellows as they move forward in their careers.

Safe Passage’s paralegal fellow Elizabeth Rivera reflected on the experience – the justice AmeriCorps training was incredibly interesting. As a paralegal, I am now ready to take part in a significant change in the lives of hundreds of youth. I was introduced to new terminology, which is essential to serving our youth community in immigration matters. We were fortunate to have the Honorable Print Maggard, and Honorable Jack Weil from the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge join us in the mock hearing. They participated as judges and gave suggestions to the fellows. For me personally, it was a great way to learn about the procedure for an asylum case.  As a justice AmeriCorps paralegal fellow, I am excited to be part of this amazing project.  Thanks to the justice AmeriCorps training for preparing the fellows to help young people navigate the immigration system.

The organizers also invited some Safe Passage Project staff to speak on a variety of topics.  Mentor Attorney Rex Chen helped give an advanced presentation to over 35 people about filing termination motions to defend children in immigration court.  The audience enjoyed the engaging and entertaining presentation, which included a very dramatic mock hearing that tested and gave tips to a fellow who volunteered to play the part of the immigration lawyer.  Supervising Attorney Desireé Hernandez spoke to around 65 people on two panels.  One panel focused on using pro bono lawyers to help represent children and the other panel focused on how to locate and identify children eligible for legal assistance.  Justice AmeriCorps fellow Luisa Lebron helped give a presentation about Immigration Court procedure and legal advocacy skills.

After the week-long training and a swearing-in ceremony, our fellows received a heartwarming letter of thanks written by President Obama. As our fellows begin their year of service, they are better prepared to represent a vulnerable population and better prepared to succeed in the face of adversity.

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