Alumna Presents on the Human Impact of Border Policies

Ms. Rebecca Eichler, J.D. 1998, presents to Immigration Clinic I (Spring 2021).

On April 22, William & Mary Law School Alumna Rebecca Eichler, J.D. 1998, presented to the Immigration Clinic about protecting the human rights of asylum seekers in Mexico. Ms. Eichler received her J.D. from William & Mary and LLM in International Human Rights from the University of London, as the Draper’s Scholar. Ms. Eichler has 20 years of experience as an immigration attorney working with clients from around the world seeking protection under U.S. & international law. She currently lives and works in Mexico as a human rights and refugee advocate, advising deportees from the U.S, migrants in transit, and asylum seekers at the US border. 

In her presentation to Immigration Clinic students, Ms. Eichler discussed the human impact of the Trump Administration’s border policies, including metering, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and Title 42. She described how, as caravans passed through Celaya, Ms. Eichler set up a makeshift Legal Aid office out of her van, where she provided asylum seekers with donated socks and water, a place to charge their phones, and information about what to expect once they reached the U.S./Mexico border.

The Van Ms. Eichler used as a Legal Aid Center in Mexico. Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Eichler, J.D. 1998

In partnership with nonprofit organizations like Al Otro Lado and shelters like ABBA, Ms. Eichler has conducted legal consultations to help people understand what to expect with U.S. asylum law and procedure. “You only have five minutes to talk to someone about their case,” she remarked. “While you may spend hundreds of hours in the Clinic on one asylum case, in that intake, I only have five to ten minutes to explain to someone what to expect and help them start to frame their case.” Ms. Eichler also discussed the difficulties – both physical and emotional – of doing the work. “I took two bar exams, I was in the military, and I had two children, I know what difficult is,” she said. “And this [giving information on migrants’ rights from her van] is the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”

Most importantly, Ms. Eichler encouraged the students in their future human rights work. “You are the future,” she said to the students. “You have skills that you can use to help so many people.” 

“Ms. Eichler helped us understand not just what our clients have been through to get here but why they would make the journey as well,” said Sophia Laster, J.D. Class of 2021. “Some people arrive at the border with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and that just speaks to the urgency with which they had to leave. She spoke to us of the powerful words of Warsan Shire, that ‘No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark.’”1

“While practicing immigration law in my comfortable office in Virginia, I never truly internalized the journey and challenges that my clients faced just to get to the point of sitting across from my desk talking to me,” said Ms. Eichler. “Now that I’m working in Mexico with people in the middle of their journey and at the border, I’ve truly come to appreciate the struggle of getting a lawyer and how important it is that people have representation. I’m so grateful to students in the immigration clinic and to every lawyer providing their services pro bono because it absolutely makes a difference to the success of people’s cases.  It is literally saving lives.”


The Immigration Clinic is thankful for the support of alumni like Ms. Eichler. You can support the Clinic by contacting us or donating directly to support our efforts. 


[1] Warsan Shire: Home, Medium (Sept. 11, 2017), https://medium.com/poem-of-the-day/warsan-shire-home-46630fcc90ab.