Mitchell Hamline law students to lend legal services to asylum seekers at border

A group of law students from Mitchell Hamline School of Law will be spending their Christmas heading to one of the biggest immigration detention centers in Texas to lend their services to families hoping to seek asylum in the United States. 

Maria Alvillar is embarking on her second trip down to Texas to spend more than a week with families who have crossed the border from Latin America seeking asylum in the U.S. This time she will fly out on Christmas day and prepare to meet with hundreds of men and boys to get them ready for their first court proceedings.

 “A lot of the time when you talk to them about it they are crying and they are telling you why they had to do that why they had to leave and risk crossing thru Mexico to get to the U.S.” Alvillar said. 

Although it is an unconventional way to spend Christmas, Alvillar and her colleague, Gabriel Ramirez-Hernandez, said they feel an obligation to join six other Mitchell Hamline law students and their professor to assist these people in Karnes City, Texas.

“This is humanitarian relief—it shouldn’t really be controversial and for so many reasons these should be the easiest stories for us to open our ears to,” Ramirez-Hernandez said. 

Both students are inspired to become immigration attorneys because of their own families' journeys to America and because they want to expand legal access to marginalized communities.

“That has afforded me the opportunity to be here certainly and if I could do anything to give back to that community I think that would only be fair,” Ramierz-Hernandez said. 

Adjunct professor Paula Duthoy has led her students on these types of missions before during the J-Term of holiday break. She said the experience they get from dealing with critical cases at these detention centers is better than any law book could offer.

“In a very short time, you need to be able to convince this person that you are there to help them and guide them through the program and what’s going to happen so it’s an intense experience,” Duthoy said. 

The students will be down in Texas through the New Year. They will be working morning, noon and night prepping people for their hearings seeking asylum.