Immigration Law Clinic Students Aid Immigrant Workers in Mississippi
Immigration Law Clinic students Emily Wilson, '13, Stephanie Platenkamp, '14, Anita Mukherji, '14, and Nienke Schouten, '14 spent several days in Mississippi last week offering free legal aid to immigrant workers.
In response to a call from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the Clinic accepted five cases of poultry workers seeking immigration relief. The workers allegedly were subjected to abusive working conditions, felonious assault, and extortion in their workplace in Morton, Mississippi. Students travelled there to meet with clients, finalize their U Visa applications, and review applications and declarations.
The students spent hours each day interviewing workers and documenting their stories of endurance in a low-wage workplace environment. The opportunity was part of a collaboration between the NELP, law schools, and pro bono providers to offer legal services to an extremely under-served rural Latino community. The students were able to use lawyering skills acquired in law school to interview and counsel several workers and their families. "I speak for all us when I say it was the highlight of our year," said Stephanie Platenkamp. "We heard stories of workers who endured abuse and at the same time lived in fear of retaliation if they spoke up in the workplace."
"The low-wage workers we met with are vulnerable and people take advantage. People take advantage so much that it almost seems like a normal part of everyone' life, even though I could not imagine living with a work environment like this," said Emily Wilson.
"This trip was fun," she said. "But by fun, I mean it made and impact; it was worth something. We took steps forward in hope that these folks don't have to look back."
Professor Leticia Saucedo who accompanied the group said, "I'm proud of my students. They were lawyers in the real sense, showing respect and empathy, and allowing these workers to feel dignified for coming forward to tell their stories."