Imagine going straight from taking notes in your Evidence class to arguing in a courtroom. LAFLA has crucial relationships with law schools and community organizations throughout Greater Los Angeles, including Pepperdine University School of Law—which has a unique collaboration with the Supporting Families Workgroup. Through this partnership, law students work directly with immigrants, assessing their eligibility for relief and representing them in court.
We spoke with our Spring 2019 Pepperdine fellows to learn about their experience and what drew them to the fellowship.
“I care about immigrant communities,” said Athina Doria (left). “My parents are immigrants. My husband is an immigrant. And the communities I grew up in consisted of immigrants.”
During her fellowship, Athina wrote a motion to reopen for a mother and her two children—which stopped an imminent deportation. The immigration judge granted the motion within one week, and now the family is pursuing their asylum case in court.
“I wanted to be able to put to use the knowledge I acquired in a classroom setting in a real-world setting,” noted CaVoné Moore (right). “My most important personal goal was to build my self-esteem and confidence working on case matters. I met this goal through working on my own caseload, and having to speak in front of judges and other attorneys in court at my hearings.”
Added Hannah Gray (below): “While at LAFLA, I drafted legal briefs and motions for clients’ court appearances, did intakes at the federal building, and I appeared in court as co-counsel for a client during his bond hearing—and bond was granted!”
In addition, the fellows worked with clients applying for asylum; those intent on keeping their lawful permanent residency; domestic violence victims seeking protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); families seeking to obtain status under the U Visa as victims of violent crime; and survivors of human trafficking.
One of the clients helped by CaVoné is a detained civil rights activist from Cameroon. He sought asylum due to fear of persecution in his home country. In May, LAFLA presented his case before the immigration judge who then granted his case—testament to the hard work of our fellows.
“I hoped to learn more about immigration law to see if it was a field that I could see myself practice in after graduation,” said Hannah. “I am now only applying to immigration positions—so I would say it was a successful fellowship.”
According to LAFLA Senior Attorney Brigit Greeson Alvarez (pictured right, second from right), who oversees the partnership with Pepperdine, “What makes LAFLA unique is the breadth of experience of our attorneys and their ability to train. Our fellows know they will not just research and write for a hypothetical scenario. At LAFLA, our fellows work collaboratively with the attorneys to directly represent those at high-risk of removal before immigration judges. No matter where they land after graduation, our students gain writing, client communication, oral advocacy, and negotiation skills, applicable to all areas of law.”
Each year, LAFLA volunteers donate approximately 50,000 pro bono hours to expand the free legal services that it provides to the community on a variety of legal issues. LAFLA welcomes interested volunteers to help further our mission of providing access to justice to those who cannot afford an attorney. Learn more about our volunteer and fellowship opportunities.