Reflections on the Clinic’s First Year

By Stacy Kern-Scheerer, Director of the Immigration Clinic

Rebecca Jaegar (Class of 2020) and Mechelle King (Class of 2021), who prepared the Immigration Clinic’s first motion and supporting brief to the Immigration Court (Fall 2019)

Speaking with clients and witnesses in countries all over the world. Interviewing clients through interpreters. Working to make sure a client’s story is heard. Utilizing trauma-informed interviewing practices. Navigating a fluid, politicized, and extraordinarily complex system. Aiding clients in high-stakes situations.

These are just some of the skills that students in the Immigration Clinic put into direct practice in its first year. Reflecting back on the two semesters, I am struck by the tenacity and commitment with which the students in the Clinic approached their cases.

In its first year, the Clinic has represented asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence and other severe crimes, ICE detainees, and families seeking to reunite with loved ones in the United States. Students have gained experience with petitioning USCIS and arguing in Arlington Immigration Court. I’ve seen students confront adversity, be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, have epiphanies, and rise to the challenges presented. I’ve been there with students when they’ve experienced a crushing disappointment and had to deliver devastating news to a client. But I’ve also been there with students when they experience the thrill of solving a piece of a puzzle, or securing a victory for a client that will change the client’s life. The students have experienced first-hand the highs and lows of practice and have grown as advocates and problem-solvers in extraordinary ways.

None of this would have been possible without our generous donors, who are the cornerstone of our work. We are so grateful for the support they provide to our Clinic, students, and clients.

In the next year, I am confident the Clinic will continue to thrive. By partnering with community members and service providers, by working as a team, and by immersing ourselves in the study of best practices in working with immigrants, next year’s students will continue what began with this year’s remarkable students.