Hope and Kindness in the Midst of Disappointment
Unlike the criminal justice system, asylum seekers in immigration court are not guaranteed legal representation. RILA steps into this gap for immigrants who lack awareness of their rights and options within our complex immigration system. A difficult but essential responsibility of RILA is to let prospective clients know when they do not qualify for legal status and to help clients navigate next steps when their claim for legal status is denied.
RILA receives several calls from potential clients each week. Those we believe we can help are given an appointment at one of our legal aid clinics. After hearing their story, we may realize they have no basis for asylum or another legal pathway. In these cases, RILA offers an honest assessment of their situation. Without this information, immigrants are more susceptible to the questionable practices of unscrupulous lawyers and notarios. For others, RILA may accept their case but ultimately see their claim denied in immigration court. A recent case highlights such an outcome while demonstrating the U.S. immigration system at its best.
“Beatriz” came to RILA to ask for help in applying for asylum, but the facts of her case did not fit well within the boundaries of U.S. asylum law. Beatriz had begun a new life in the U.S., but she knew that her stay was likely temporary. She was always honest about what had happened to her, telling the truth even when she knew her case would probably not merit a grant of asylum.
As Beatriz’s court hearing approached, we realized that there was a high risk of her receiving a removal order, which would bar her from ever legally entering the U.S. again. Thankfully, the threats that had existed against Beatriz had largely dissipated, and she no longer had an acute fear of returning home.
RILA’s lead attorney contacted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorney assigned to Beatriz's case and asked if Beatriz could qualify for voluntary departure rather than a removal order. If approved, Beatriz would be able to return to the U.S. someday to visit family.
DHS worked with RILA to arrange for her to leave the U.S. voluntarily. The DHS attorney did not have to do this but chose to show kindness toward Beatriz by agreeing to a plan that was both compliant with U.S. immigration laws and compassionate. Moreover, DHS permitted Beatriz to delay her departure so that she might undergo critical surgery for a tumor. We are hopeful for Beatriz’s future and grateful for the dignity and understanding extended to her by DHS.