By Claudia Flores-Montesinos ’22
When you look out at the beach you’re automatically at peace looking out at the scenic view of the endless body of water and miles of sand in either direction. The warm sun touches your skin, and the cold water cools you down. For the asylum seekers in the United States, this is the warm feeling I picture they feel once they receive a positive decision on their asylum application. A warm and peaceful feeling knowing that they are now able to partake in an endless amount of opportunities and let go of the enormous fear of being deported back to the country where they faced persecution.
In this analogy, as a University at Buffalo School of Law student, I would like to think that I am a mere grain of sand on their journey through the application process. It takes a lot of people to uplift immigrants to a point where they are able to feel comfortable working with people recalling their traumatic experiences, which is unfortunately the only way they are able to plead a “viable” case to the U.S government.
The very first step in creating a successful asylum application is fostering a relationship where the individual feels comfortable so that they can openly talk about everything that will affect their application. As an immigrant rights advocate, I understand that patience, empathy, and cultural consciousness are essential parts for the relationship to thrive, and it was a great experience to put this in practice this summer. This summer I was able to intern for Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS) at the VIVE Shelter (a program of Jericho Road Community Health Center) in Buffalo, N.Y and completely immerse myself within the specific I-589 Asylum Application process.
It was an amazing experience to serve as a hands-on intern, from start to finish, on two different applications for two different families of four. JERS assists with pro-se applications so that immigrants are able to start and complete their initial asylum application and send it off to court in order to start their “asylum clock.”
One of the families I worked with was a Spanish-speaking family of four. The “start to finish” portion of my work entailed: filling out the application, meeting with the individuals to create a client statement for their application, translating, finding country conditions pertaining to the country from which they are seeking asylum, and submitting a draft of their application to my supervising attorney, then making all the changes requested. In my final meeting with this family I heard their gratitude for the effort and time spent on their case, and I felt a sense of fulfillment that I would like to continue feeling with many other immigrants coming into the U.S.
I am eternally grateful for the Buffalo Human Rights Center Fellowship which allowed me to be able to look at the topic of immigration from a human rights point of view and am excited to write a paper focused on this issue and continue exploring this field through an academic lens in the fall semester.
Name: Claudia Flores-Montesinos ’22
Name of Fellowship: Buffalo Human Rights Center Summer Fellowship
Placement: Journey’s End Refugees Services
Location: Buffalo, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “As an immigrant rights advocate, I understand that patience, empathy, and cultural consciousness are essential parts for the relationship to thrive, and it was a great experience to put this in practice this summer.”