As law students and future attorneys, we have a passion for social justice issues concerning migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Our goal is to help all migrant communities understand their rights in the process of obtaining legal status. This May, we are volunteering with the Rutgers Immigrant Rights Clinic and Espacio Migrante to assist migrants in Tijuana, Mexico. By working with a local organization that communicates with migrant communities on a regular basis, we will gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground and help to ensure that all people, documented or not, know their rights.
We plan to use our legal knowledge to help migrants who have been marginalized and disenfranchised. The U.S. immigration system is highly nebulous and difficult to navigate. Therefore, we want to help those who are navigating this system by providing additional context on what the immigration process looks like. We look forward to providing hands-on assistance because, while reading about border news provides some insight, the best way to truly serve the community is by interacting with individuals and hearing their needs firsthand. We are excited to work with other Rutgers students and faculty, as well as the volunteers from Espacio Migrante, all of whom are willing and ready to assist migrants.
I, Amily Bolano Diaz, came from Cuba to the U.S. 11 years ago; therefore, I know what it means to be disoriented and confused. Most importantly, I also know the importance of being informed about your rights and how valuable it is to have people and communities who support you. I believe that migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers also have fundamental rights that must be respected. Therefore, in 2020, I spent my gap year before starting law school, working at the Newark Immigration Court. My experience in the immigration court taught me the significance of respecting the rights of all individuals regarding their legal status. Most importantly, I understood how migrants are a valuable and indispensable part of American society. Hence, the work we do of aiding migrants is not only important but necessary.
I, Emily Rathburn, plan on practicing immigration law in my career. I first became interested in immigration in grad school, where I studied international law, human rights, and gender equality. I found immigration to be at the intersection of those areas, and I was motivated to learn more so that I work to change the harmful systems that cause individuals to flee and the additional hardships they face while in the immigration system. Since starting law school, I’ve gained experience as an Immigrant Rights Fellow, representing asylum seekers in the clinic. I’ve learned important skills for representing clients in immigration proceedings, but also providing holistic services to assuage some of the difficulty that comes with seeking safety in an unfamiliar place while navigating difficult legal proceedings. I hope that by working with diverse migrant populations at the border, I can learn from those on the ground who are facing our legal system, as well as those from Espacio Migrante who provide services to those communities every day. I believe having that context can help me to become a better advocate and more effective practitioner in immigration law.
Ultimately, the trip to the U.S.- Mexico border will help individuals who are in search of safety from oppressive governments, persecution, torture, or even death, but will also provide us law students with invaluable first-hand experience in supporting these individuals and organizations.
If you would like to help support the work we are doing, you can donate to via GoFundMe.