I have been involved with immigration policy for quite some time, but until recently never direct representation. My first experience with immigration started with the Human Rights and Immigration Clinics at the University of Miami School of Law. We worked with the Haitian community and deportees to Haiti on issues of deportee treatment, temporary protected status, and asylum.
When I moved to Washington, DC after law school, I wanted to continue working on asylum issues. I volunteered with groups like Center Global, a program of the DC Center for the LGBT Community, that supports LGBT asylum seekers, and the Asylum Seekers Assistance Project, which provides social services, employment training, and community support.
Still, I was hesitant to take on clients seeking asylum. Then the Immigration Justice Campaign came along.
Starting with country conditions research, I became more familiar with the technicalities of asylum claims. Soon I took on my first appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). My client was a bisexual man from Jamaica, who, because of a criminal record, was denied various forms of relief.
A technical attorney from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) was there with me the entire time, answering my near daily emails about any number of issues that arose while I drafted the appeal. I had access to AILA’s research databases, sample briefings on issues of criminal bars to relief, and webinars on the most recent developments in immigration law.
While the BIA dismissed my client’s appeal, another pro bono attorney successfully appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit—and even before the parties submitted opening briefs, the government moved for a remand of the case to the BIA for reconsideration.
Joining the Immigration Justice Campaign means becoming a member of a community of pro bono attorneys who, regardless of their daily practices, have come together to support the common cause of ensuring immigrants in this country—and their claims—are treated with the dignity they deserve, and which this country owes them.
Geoffrey Louden is an attorney in Washington, DC. He serves as Vice-Chair of Center Global, DC’s LGBT Asylum Support Network.