Katie Mesa and her classmates video conferencing with students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of their Immigrant and Farmworker cases.
This semester, I have the privilege of being enrolled in the Immigration and Farmworker Project within the Public Interest Law Center at FSU College of Law. The clinic gives us the opportunity to collaborate with students from UF Levin College of Law through a grant provided by The Florida Bar Foundation. We assist immigrants and agricultural workers who face employment barriers such as undocumented status, lack of housing and lack of healthcare. Particularly, in this day and age, this clinic is exciting to be a part of because no two days are the same. In addition to meeting for class twice a week, every Wednesday we video chat with the UF class to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of our cases. Our professor, Darby Kerrigan Scott, has also brought in prominent members of the Tallahassee legal community to discuss their individual legal work, working with victims of trauma, and explaining how the immigration judicial system operates. As students, we are also actively engaged as civic-minded citizens by preparing comments on proposed rules on immigration and giving community presentations to local migrant populations. The ever-changing nature of immigration allows for this field to be dynamic, challenging, and stimulating. My classmates and I discuss even the most controversial topics in immigration to try to get to the heart of a given legal issue and also engage one another in productive and respectful discourse.
With aspirations to work in international human rights, I saw this clinic as an opportunity to learn about the U.S. immigration system and to help victims of human trafficking, refugees, and those seeking asylum. As the daughter of an immigrant, it is important to me that people recognize that there is no one image of what an immigrant looks like and no template for his or her story. Through this clinic, I am able to help clients who have come from all walks of life and seen all forms of hardship but who have a desire to build a better life for both themselves and sometimes their families. Participating in this clinic has been a humbling and eye-opening experience, one that has shown me the range of work that is available in the legal field.
If you had asked me four months ago if I had had an interest in immigration, I would have likely said no. Having partaken in this clinic now, I can only give a glimpse as to the value of my experience and the value of the clinic as a whole. In addition to helping clients, I have learned so much about the U.S. immigration system, the types of relief and visas available, how federal agencies and immigration courts operate, and the impact that various changes in U.S. policies can have on current and potential immigration proceedings and remedies. I have also learned the value of trauma-informed lawyering. The clients we work with are real human beings, people who have been trafficked, abused, or who have had to flee their home countries to escape dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations. I am honored to be a member of this clinic in its inaugural semester and I encourage students who have an interest or who don’t know exactly what they want to do to check the immigration clinic out.
Katie Mesa, 2L