Mix New York’s historic role as a magnet for newcomers and Catholic Charities’ work with migrants and the rationale is clear: Lower Manhattan is the home of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Services, and it may be the best place there is to learn about immigration law. The busy waiting rooms tell a story as migrants seek answers on immigration issues, sometimes with questions that can pose the difference between life in a new country and death back home. The stakes are high.
They are new eager, excited students.
That’s a big reason why law students from some of the area’s best law schools, and beyond, come here to work summers learning the intricacies of interviews, court hearings and the massive paperwork needed to assist migrants. This summer, 16 law school interns are participating in a program that runs from June through August. They will assist staff attorneys both at Maiden Lane and in an office in the South Bronx, as well as via the Internet.
The 16 were selected after a series of interviews over two days at NYU Law School last winter at a conference dedicated to public interest law service.
“They are new eager, excited students,” said Susan Marks, Partnership and Engagement Manager for Immigrant and Refugee Services. The goal is for the interns to learn immigration legal practice and perhaps serve Catholic Charities after graduation. There is also a practical benefit for the agency. “They help us serve more clients,” said Susan.
Brianna Thurman of Tulane Law School in New Orleans said she was interested in the program because of her interest in public service law dedicated to “helping Black and Brown people with the resources they need.” The program, she said, will make her a better advocate for people often left behind.
Carlos Rico of Fordham Law School said that “it is deeply personal for me to be here.” His father is an immigrant from Colombia and he wants to help people undergoing similar struggles. He said he feels a need “to be an advocate and tell their stories.”
Colleen Kemp, also of Fordham Law School, said that she taught English in Spain and was affected by the stories of immigrant students in her classes who came from disparate places, including Ukraine and North Africa. Now she wants to help those in similar straits in New York.
Maria Orozco has a master’s degree from NYU in Chicano Studies and U.S. Border Policy. She now wants to take that knowledge into advocacy work for migrants.
They will be joined by Katherine Johnson, Alan Cortez, Ulises Campeche and Rangel Toussaint, Pace Law School; Julian Tricamo-Palmer, Fordham; Taylor Fountain, Columbia; Meredith Innocent and Marianna Villani, New York Law School; Marc Cardona, Cardozo; Silvia Fong, Rutgers; Julianna Balaji Wright and Kevin Harmon, NYU.