American U Law Students Volunteer

Last week, eight students from the Washington College of Law at American University came with their immigration law professor to help our clients at a legal clinic.  We appreciated their coming out to Virginia to volunteer.

Working with actual clients gave the students an opportunity to put their learning into practice and to see how clients may have unique circumstances.  As an example, the students helped one client, named Lily, who is an asylee from east Africa.  Lily has been in asylum status for a year, and now she is eligible to apply for a green card.  The application includes a filing fee of $1,070.  Usually clients who earn less than 150 percent of the poverty level that federal guidelines set for their family size are eligible to apply for a fee waiver.  But surprisingly, Lily earned $31,000 over the past year!  That is about $7,000 over the guidelines for a household of two, such as Lily’s, meaning that she must show a financial hardship to be eligible for a fee waiver.

Although Lily’s income seems substantial, it requires a second look.  Lily supports her eighteen-year-old daughter, who is in college, and she wants to bring her husband and younger daughter to the United States this summer. She earns her money by working two jobs with a care-giver agency, and the amount she earns varies.  Depending on the availability of work, she may earn from $350 to $700 in a given week.  Her daughter’s college tuition, which comes out of her income, is $17,000, and that amounts to more than half of her most recent annual earnings.   Just Neighbors is helping Lily document the unusual demands on her income in her application for a filing fee waiver.

Having fled persecution, Lily met the legal requirements for asylum status.  She is adapting to life in a new country while working as many hours as she can.   She is educating her daughter and, with a goal of re-uniting her family in June or July, she is saving for two airfares.  Lily is clearly a hard-working, motivated woman.  Just Neighbors, with the help of the visiting students, was glad to assist Lily in applying for a green card, and we look forward to helping her daughter when she comes home from college this summer.

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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