(by Bonnie Sanchez)
Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego offers pro bono legal services to immigrants through three programs serving: Victims of Domestic Violence; Asylum Seekers; and, Unaccompanied Children. As an IVC Volunteer I assisted the lawyer coordinating effort to represent children who enter the U.S. without documents and unaccompanied by an adult family member. My role was to interview the children detained at two separate facilities until their case can be adjudicated. Factual summaries I prepared of these interviews inform pro bono lawyers representing the children. The lawyers doing this pro bono work often have very large caseloads and some are doing this work in addition to their law firm casework unassociated with immigration. Without the factual summaries these well-qualified, well-intentioned, yet very busy professionals, might miss the qualifying nugget that would qualify the child for asylum or a special visa; whereas I could take my time to listen to an often frightened, depressed, lonely child.
I am most touched and grateful to the service I performed as an IVC Volunteer in those cases where the child’s reason for braving the long, dangerous, journey to cross into the U.S. is simply— poverty. Poverty is not reason enough for a visa nor asylum. The story of poverty is the one that touches me the most because it is this child that will be surely deported, returned to a life so destitute that they risked their own to come here to work. We are talking of a child 14, 15, years of age who feels this tremendous weight of responsibility to contribute to the survival of their parents and siblings. Their feeling of disappointment and failure because immigration officials captured them is palpable. It is then I could offer what a very busy lawyer perhaps cannot not because they are busy and because they are focused on the law. I could offer the love that is within me because God is within me— something I have learned through IVC. And perhaps doing this makes the cross this child bears feel just a little less heavy.