IndyBar: The Country We Call Home – Protecting the Kids Who Do, Too

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iba-kids-factbox.jpgAre you ready for summer? The IndyBar is all set with a calendar full of interesting and unique CLE opportunities, and you won’t want to miss them!

Start off the season strong by checking out Representing Unaccompanied Minors in Immigration Proceedings on Thursday, June 11 from noon to 1 p.m. This program is a rare opportunity for attorneys to learn more about an often misunderstood area of law. The seminar will be led by Rachel E. Van Tyle of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, who has extensive experience in this area. Check out our interview with her below to learn more about this seminar and why you need to be there.

Q: Why should attorneys be interested in this CLE program?

A: It’s something that has been in the news. It’s an opportunity to learn more about what is happening in the world of immigration.

Q: What can attendees expect to learn about from the program? What are some of the highlights?

A: They can expect to learn about the unaccompanied minor crisis, including why children are fleeing and what they are hoping to gain in the U.S. They will also learn about a variety of immigration relief which has applicability beyond the specific population we will be discussing that day.

Q: Who would benefit from attending this CLE?

A: Anybody who wants to get involved or wants to learn more. I think if someone is interested in immigration, this could be a great CLE to see if they might want to learn more. Part of this immigration relief involves a state court determination so anybody with family law experience would be ideal!

Q: Why is this topic important for you?

A: It’s important because it is so misunderstood. There is a lot of animus out there towards the immigrant, even the immigrant child, so if I can change even one person’s mind about what a child has been through and what motivated them to make the dangerous journey to the United States, then it is worth it.

Q: Any personal experiences or cases you’ve worked on that involve unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings?

A: One of the very first cases I worked on was for a 16-year-old kid from Honduras. His mother was in the United States and had lawful permanent residence (Green Card). She had left him in Honduras to be cared for by a great-grandmother when he was three. When the great-grandmother passed away, his mom told him to come to the United States. He made it as far as Mexico the first time before Mexico caught him and sent him back. The next time, he made it to the United States and to his mother.

Unfortunately, life was not quite what he had expected in the United States. His mother was horribly abusive to him. He didn’t speak English, so when she would send him to the store with a list and he would return with the wrong things (think saltines vs. graham crackers) she would beat him. She accused him of being possessed. She quite literally put him out on the street about three months after he had arrived.

Luckily, he had a grandmother who was here in Indiana and so we were able to get a guardianship for the grandma over the grandson. He started to thrive. He was eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and USCIS agreed. He got his lawful permanent residence and graduated high school. Recently, I received an email that he had been accepted to college for architecture on a full ride. He’s the bright and shining example of what an immigrant can and should be to this country.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part about what you do as an attorney?

A: The most rewarding part of what I do would have to be the asylum seekers and children I represent. I view them as the most vulnerable of all immigrants because in most of their cases it can literally be a matter of life or death. You may be representing a young woman from the Congo who was brutally tortured for her political opinion or a young boy from Honduras. Both know they will face almost certain death if forced to return to their country. Both need your help. Both are DESERVING of your help. And luckily, at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, I am given the opportunity to help both.

Q: Most interesting case you’ve worked on and why?

A: It is hard for me to pick just one, so I will choose my asylum cases in general. They are so fascinating for me because the asylum-seekers can be from anywhere in the world, even places we normally view as relatively stable. I’ve had clients from places you would expect like Syria, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some from places less-obvious like Kenya, Argentina and India. They are all different and allow me to be creative. I enjoy being able to represent a client’s interest before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and let the client know that they have somebody in their corner. For some people, knowing that somebody believes in them and is willing to go the distance (quite literally – I have to travel to Chicago for asylum cases) is the affirmation they need that the U.S. is a wonderful land of amazing people.

Q: How long have you been practicing?

A: I have been in practice for three years. I have been at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic since July of 2012.

Q: What does your practice focus on?

A: I am the staff attorney for the Immigrant Justice Program at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. The Immigrant Justice Program seeks to serve the holistic needs of an immigrant. The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic recognizes that an immigrant will have more than just immigration needs so we do our best to meet the whole needs of the client. That being said, the majority (90 percent) of my work is with immigrants and their issues before USCIS.

Q: When you’re not at work, what are some other things you enjoy doing in Indy?

A: I live in Irvington and enjoy exploring that area of town. I also enjoy Butler Basketball games and trying new restaurants!

Q: Anything else people should know about you or the upcoming CLE?

A: Even if you are unsure if you want to get involved or learn more about immigration, please come or contact me. We need attorney volunteers in many areas at the clinic so even if you decide immigration is not for you maybe you will learn something new about the clinic.

Want to know more? Dive into this issue and learn more from Van Tyle’s experiences by registering online at•

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