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Student Reflects on Her Work in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Advanced Immigrants’ Rights Clinic student, Nicole DeMoss ’14 writes below on the experience of representing a client facing potential deportation.

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Nicole DeMoss '14

Nicole DeMoss ’14

I met our client (“M”) for the first time in December 2013.  I am not the first and certainly not the last student-attorney to assist him in his ongoing legal struggle to remain in the United States.

I had read his entire file and was familiar with his story—a young man not even 21 years old who was brought to the U.S. by his family when he was only five.  In middle school, lacking guidance and support, he had made a series of youthful mistakes.  These have proven remarkably difficult to overcome, not because most of them were more than a series of petty abuses, but because of the way police in his community labeled him and ultimately, because of his “illegal” status in the U.S.

Barely past his 18th birthday, and having never lived anywhere but his parents’ home in Northern California, immigration officials placed M in removal proceedings.  When I met with him in December, I quickly realized that he was, on the one hand, a young 20-year-old still working to mature and to make positive decisions.  But on the other hand, he was already managing the incredible responsibilities of a full time job, a long term relationship, overtime work, and raising two beautiful young children.  It was our job, advocating for his right to stay in the United States, to make this side of M come alive to the Immigration Service.  We wanted to explain that despite his interaction with law enforcement, he was an incredible young man who had spent all of his formative years here.  He graduated from high school in the U.S., had built deep roots here, was an adoring father to his children and warranted the opportunity to stay.  On this theory, we filed a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) application for M in February 2013. Working closely with M from December until February was an incredible experience and a brief, but powerful glimpse into the effects of the threat of removal (deportation) on not one individual, but an entire family.

The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has been working with M for well over a year to work through his various legal options and to take advantage of every possible avenue to stay in the U.S. with his parents, his fiancée and his two young U.S. citizen children.  The DACA application was just a small piece of this effort and yet it provided an opportunity for me to spend a significant amount of time with M and his family.  I met with M and his fiancée here at the clinic on multiple occasions.  I listened to stories about their lives; their involvement in their kids’ early education, celebrations with extended family in the area, their efforts to save money for their own home, and their deep fears about the possibility of M being forced to leave the U.S. and leaving his parents, his fiancée and his children behind.  We discussed the unsettling but realistic possibility that the application we were filing might not be successful and that the Immigration Service might not grant the relief we were requesting.  Despite all of this, M and his entire family were incredibly appreciative of the support that the clinic provided and of the work students and supervisors had done on their behalf.  I feel privileged to have been a small part of the clinic team working for M.

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