In the United States, immigrants are not guaranteed a lawyer in immigration courts. This means that everyday, immigrants are sent into court to face highly trained and well-educated government officials without a lawyer by their side. Immigrants, even children and the disabled, are often left with little hope for prevailing in their cases. Immigrant Defense Law Center (ImmDef) is a social justice law firm that positively impacts immigrants' ability to get a fair hearing and win immigration relief by ensuring that immigrants do not have to go into court alone. Immigrants with lawyers are five times more likely to prevail in their cases. This summer I had the unique opportunity to shadow a pro bono attorney and volunteer interpreter doing work for ImmDef in Los Angeles, California. The attorney and interpreter were working with a 15-year old boy from El Salvador named Javier Gonzalez who was petitioning for asylum in the
United States. Javier was petitioning for asylum because he feared being killed by the gangs he had refused to join if he returned to El Salvador. He was specifically targeted by gangs because he was Catholic, regularly attended church, and his family was known for resisting the gangs. Since Javier and his relatives, some of whom still lived in El Salvador, were primarily Spanish speaking, all of their declarations explaining why he needed to leave El Salvador had to be interpreted and translated into English. As a political science and Spanish double major, I found the work that went into building this Javier’s case to be incredibly interesting and meaningful. Organization like ImmDef need young people like us to get involved. They need people to join them and use our abilities and our voices to help them make a difference in the lives of people who have come to the United States seeking a new home and hopes of a better life. Javier’s case is now in order and is waiting to be heard by an immigration court. While he waits for his case to be heard, Javier is able to remain here in the United States where he is living with his father.