Immigration Clinic provides profound life lessons

Representing diverse individuals from around the world has enabled Immigration Clinic students to embrace how they can make a difference in the lives of others and has informed their worldview. UT’s Immigration Clinic, directed by Professor Karla McKanders, focuses on representing unaccompanied minor children and asylum seekers in East Tennessee in their applications for humanitarian immigration relief. Clinic students have assisted immigrants from Mexico and Central America, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Syria, and the Gambia and have successfully obtained asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and relief under the Violence Against Women Act for their clients.

Lucy Boateng describes her work as a student attorney in the clinic as truly “defining my law school experience. Working with my client reminded me of the reason why I came to law school, and for the first time, I felt like I was making a difference.”

Kaitlin Parham and Kateri Dahl, students in the Immigration Clinic, have also been profoundly impacted by their clinical experiences. Dahl says the experience was “rewarding, unlike anything I’ve encountered in law school and challenging. Yet, working with such diverse clients has been both a delight and an eye-opening lesson. The objective of clinic is to gain practical skills while working with real clients, but I’ve found that Immigration Clinic provides much more than that. It exposes you to an area of the law that is often debated by pundits but rarely understood and can challenge your worldview on the human condition and what it means to be an American.”

Parham ranks her Immigration Clinic experience as one of the “highlights” of her law school career.  “Law school is more than just reading casebooks and taking exams,” she says. “Being able to assist clients and help them navigate the world of immigration law is rewarding. Joining the Immigration Clinic has made me realize that being a lawyer is more than just filing motions and going to court. It is about building meaningful relationships with the clients you serve.”