Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program
Students who work at HIRC come to the Clinic with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. For some students, it may be their first time working directly with clients, while for others it might be their first time engaging with immigration law or appearing in court. For Krista Oehlke ’20, that day came in June of 2019, when she arrived at the Boston Immigration Courthouse with Albert M. Sacks Teaching and Advocacy Fellow Zachary Albun and their client Carla*, a woman from Central America who was seeking asylum.
“I slept about an hour before the morning of the hearing,” Oehlke admitted.
Leading up to this day, there had been months of preparation and practice. Over the spring semester, Oehlke and Ava Liu ‘20 worked tirelessly to compile country conditions and expert testimony to strengthen Carla’s case, ultimately submitting close to eight hundred pages of evidence. The students also worked closely with Carla and her family in the U.S. and overseas, drafting affidavits and preparing them for their day in court, as well as working with the HIRC social work team to connect them to valuable social services.
Albun said he was impressed by the students’ hard work, noting: “The students developed effective case strategy in response to government decisions like Matter of A-B- which created new challenges for asylum-seekers and refugees.”
He was also happy to report that Oehlke did an excellent job at her first time in immigration court, leading the direct examination of Carla and effectively engaging with and responding to the government attorney. In the end, the judge granted Carla asylum and the government waived appeal.
“It was such an honor to be able to represent a woman as strong as Carla,” said Oehlke. “She inspired me tremendously.”
Liu echoed her admiration for Carla and added “To use the law as a tool to help someone so meaningfully is an experience I will never forget.”
Liu also gave a call to action to her fellow classmates, saying “I hope that other HLS graduates will see the massive need for skillful advocacy in the American immigration system and work in immigration, whether that be full-time or through pro-bono opportunities.”
We are incredibly grateful to all our clinical students, past and present, for their contributions to our Clinic and we hope their experiences at HIRC inspire them to continue to advocate for the rights of immigrants wherever their lives and careers may take them.
*Client’s name has been changed to respect her privacy
Filed in: Clinical Spotlight
Contact Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs