A small group of three Harvard Law School students spent a week with the ProBar South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas. They were working with the office that assists adults in the Port Isabel Detention Center who are seeking asylum. Clinic student Mojca Nadles LL.M. ’15 shares her thoughts on the experience below.
It was challenging to spend such long stretches in the Detention Center, but it gave us a real feel for what the clients have to go through while they wait for their hearings.
Mojca Nadles LL.M. ’15
After a brief orientation, we headed to the Detention Center and got started interviewing clients right away. Our clients were all young men from Somalia who had survived against incredible odds and made the extremely long journey from Somalia to Texas.
As volunteers, we conducted extensive interviews to collect all the information we would need to fill out the clients’ asylum applications in a way that would make it clear to the immigration judge that they had a well-founded fear of persecution if they returned to Somalia.
It was challenging to spend such long stretches in the Detention Center, but it gave us a real feel for what the clients have to go through while they wait for their hearings. Not only that, but it was hard to comprehend how the clients were actually relieved to be in the Detention Center, as opposed to the horrible situations they had endured before their arrival.
Throughout the week of interviewing, we got a very clear picture of our clients’ story and were able to prepare persuasive and concise applications. Last but not least, we built good, trusting relationships with our clients and hopefully made them feel at least a bit more comfortable with the whole asylum determination procedure.
Outside of the office, we also got to take a tour of the fence on the Mexican border and cross over into Mexico on foot. We were very thankful to the amazing ProBar team to take us around after work and always make room for us in their busy schedules. Finally, we want to thank [Assistant Director of Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic] Sabi Ardalan for accompanying us and all her much needed help, support and kindness.