Throughout the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s two-day conference designed to help paralegals provide more effective assistance to their supervising attorneys, faculty reviewed and discussed the paralegal’s role with regard to key legal and factual issues, as well as the preparation of application forms and supporting documentation. As members of the conference faculty, Dree Collopy and Liana Montecinos presented on asylum and removal case preparation, covering the asylum process, removal proceedings before the U.S. Immigration Courts, Immigration Court filings and preparing cases for trial, and the important role of the paralegal throughout these immigration cases. Paralegals from all over the country participated, either in person or by the conference’s webinar component.
Benach Ragland Paralegal (and Superstar) Liana Montecinos began her portion of the presentation by asking, “Who here thinks of themselves as an artist?” Liana then went on to describe the “art” that she creates every day in preparing filings to be sent to Immigration Courts around the country, emphasizing the importance of being detail-oriented, while also keeping in mind that each part of a filing contributes to its effectiveness as a whole. From the cover page, to the index of exhibits, to the supporting evidence, to the proof of service, everything must be in order and must be presented like a valuable piece of art.
Benach Ragland Partner Dree Collopy emphasized the importance of teamwork in tackling the preparation of filings and testimony to be considered by the Immigration Courts. In cases before the U.S. Immigration Courts, it is not only an individual’s livelihood or career and it is not only an individual’s family unity that is at risk; often times, it is a family member’s well-being and survival, or even the individual’s life and freedom at risk. Because of this, the stakes are incredibly high and the nature of the relief sought can be quite complicated. In meeting the Respondent’s high burden of proof in cases before the Immigration Courts, it takes a team, and paralegals are an essential part of that team.
Perhaps the most important aspect of teamwork on Immigration Court cases, whether you are an attorney or a paralegal, is providing impeccable client service from the beginning of the case until the end. Liana and Dree emphasized the importance of client service throughout their presentation, noting that clients in removal proceedings are going through one of the most stressful times in their lives, and often times, having to recall and discuss in detail some of the most traumatic times in their lives. Communicating frequently with clients, helping them feel comfortable with the procedures, and educating them about removal and the relief they are seeking will enable them to participate more fully in their cases and to feel more confident and calm throughout the process.
BR attorneys and staff are committed to improving the quality of practice of representation of immigrants. In addition to having an opportunity to share our experience, we had the chance to learn from great immigration lawyers and paralegals and made many new FOBRs.