Bonnie Sailer, 2013 ILG Summer Clerk
My work at ILG centered on several different projects, which taught me my greatest lesson of the summer: you don’t have to take the law as it is. I learned to think strategically about challenging the law and pushing new law forward in the face of obstacles which come in the form of negative precedent and the reality of most people’s limited understanding of the true impact policies have on the immigrant community. This lesson had a huge impact on me – it will follow me through whatever area of law I pursue because it is a relevant lesson for any type of social justice lawyering.
One of the primary projects I focused on during my clerkship was a series of appellate briefs addressing retroactivity issues created by the adoption of a new agency rule. It was a complicated factor analysis so it was great to write several briefs on the issue for different clients. Doing so allowed me to develop some expertise on the issue. Also, because this is a quickly developing body of law (well, as quickly as appellate law ever moves), I felt like my writing had the potentiall to actually impact how the law developed, and I got the practical experience of learning what you do as a lawyer when cases you have already briefed and argued are suddenly seriously impacted by a decision from a higher court.
I also dedicated much of my summer to laying the groundwork for an impact litigation and advocacy campaign designed to address notario-fraud, which takes advantage of the desperation for options in the vulnerable immigrant community. The problem is widespread and only going to grow more so as the talk of immigration reform heats up. My project dealt with developing a legal strategy to most effectively hold individuals and, more importantly, the networks through which they work accountable. From there, I outlined a community organizing plan to be launched simultaneously with the legal strategy to allow community members to share information and educate each other about how to identify and avoid a fraud network, either as a client or an unintentional assistant.
Another project I worked on was a series of complaints focused on challenging the illegal actions of consulates in their handling of certain immigration cases, which have traditionally been beyond the reach of the courts. I was reminded repeatedly during my work of how important it is remember that law changes, and when it changes, you, as an advocate, have to keep circling back to issues and analyzing how the changes effect the arguments you can make in those contexts.
My work also included a variety of other projects, including delving into state law practice to learn how to set up a guardianship as a first steps towards applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, challenging the denial of a FOIA request on inappropriate grounds, and drafting an analogy argument to advocate for a U-Visa applicant. Each of these assignments challenged and stretched me as well, to learn a new area of law or to think about an old area in new and creative ways.