A Sudanese woman who was a victim of human trafficking is sitting in jail right now. Her daughter is 8 years old. The last time she saw her, she was 3.
Another woman, a Haitian, is a permanent U.S. resident. But her husband remains in Haiti, and she must petition for him to be able to immigrate.
These women’s stories are real, and what they have in common is that they are represented by the Detroit Mercy Law Immigration Clinic.
Due to President Trump’s executive order, many citizens have recently started paying attention to matters of immigration. But law students and professors at Detroit Mercy have been heavily involved in this area long before it became a lead story.
The clinic handles cases involving asylums, family sponsorship, Violence Against Women Act petitions and other issues.
Lauren Tascona, a third-year law student, said some cases are more common than others.
“The most common cases we get would be fiancé visas, asylums, work authorizations and U-Visas,” she said. “We get a lot of people fleeing countries for political reasons.”
Even though it is called an immigration clinic, not all of the clients are immigrants.
U.S. visas given by the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs have separate categories for immigrants and non-immigrants.
A non-immigrant is someone who has a permanent residence outside America but plans on staying here temporarily.
An immigrant is someone in the U.S. who plans on living here permanently.
From these two categories, it only gets more specific because everyone has different situations.
Alex Vernon, an associate professor, directs the Detroit Mercy Immigration Clinic.
“The process of immigration depends on if you plan on being a permanent resident,” he said. “If that’s their plan, then they have to live here for three to five years before applying. Even then, it still depends on multiple things.”
Granted on a case-by case basis, a visa is never guaranteed even if all paperwork is filled out.
The Department of State makes note of this on its website.
But fees and paperwork are guaranteed.
If you are a permanent resident and trying to bring someone over, you must file a petition for them.
Or if you are a non-immigrant, you must fill out a form called a DS-260, which is 65 to 70 pages long.
Some of the time this requires money that many applicants don’t have, and that’s one reason why having a pro-bono immigration clinic can be so beneficial.
The documents can be intimidating but once clients sit down with a lawyer who will take time to get to know them, things start to look up.
Joanne Iskander, a second-year law student, has seen this firsthand.
Clients start to feel human again instead of just another number, she said.