Here’s a local write-up of Day 3 of our Asylum Law Project trip to El Paso.
Posted: 01/08/2009 12:00:00 AM MST
University of Minnesota law students Cortney Jones, left, and John Kevinge wrote appellate briefs for pending immigration cases at the Diocesan Migrant and Refrugee Services at 2400 E. Yandell Wednesday. Three groups of students will come to El Paso in a univeristy program that is in its 15th year. (Rudy Gutierrez/El Paso Times)
EL PASO — Immigrants escaping persecution and trying to find a better life in the United States are getting help in El Paso this week from out-of-state law students.
First-year University of Minnesota law students are spending time in El Paso to learn more about immigration law and to lend a hand to immigrant advocacy organizations such as Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services and Texas Rural Legal Aid.
It’s the program’s 15th year.
About 11 students — the first of three groups coming to El Paso — are here this week participating in the University of Minnesota’s Asylum Law Project. The project is effort to give students an opportunity to work with immigrants and people seeking asylum who look for help from local immigrant advocacy groups.
“Just as a nation, we’re somewhat distanced with what’s going on in the world, especially when it comes to human-rights abuses,” said Raymundo Elí Rojas, executive director of Las Americas.
“I think with programs like this, if the students were not already aware of the plight of people persecuted in their home country, I hope by the end of the week they become aware of what’s going on.”
Students in the Asylum Law Project at Minnesota Law said that immigrants face a slew of obstacles before they can freely set foot in the United States.
“They’re in such a tough spot,” said Matthew Webster, a vice president with the Asylum Law Project. “They’re largely a voiceless population and don’t have a lot of the protections that we take for granted.”
Law student Ashley Engels said she spoke with a woman who had to wait 12 years before she could apply for legal residency.
Engels also worked on a case in which a juvenile had to wait 18 months in detention before he could apply.
“A lot of times, the people at detention centers get hopeless and say, ‘I just want to be sent back,’ ” she said.
“It’s crazy how long it takes,” Engels said. “A lot of them have really good cases, but I don’t think they realize.”
Darren Meritz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6127.