Marsha Chen, 2009 ILG Summer Clerk
Marsha Chen, the 2009 Summer Fellow, found her time at Immigrant Law Group to be not only rewarding and informative — but transformative in the way she approaches law and legal thinking. “In working at ILG, I finally realized how all of the skills I learned in law school could be used in a powerful way not only to change the legal status of individual clients but to advocate for systemic changes to our immigration laws as a whole,” Marsha explained in an interview.
During her Fellowship, Marsha focused on two discrete projects.
The first was investigating legal strategies to end immigrant detention in Oregon and combining them with community organizing strategies to take the “Know Your Rights” presentations even farther. She was, in essence,developing legal and organizing strategies to teach others to go beyond knowing your rights and learn how to self-enforce their own rights.
In thinking about her work, Marsha found that “[i]t was really invigorating to see lawyers approaching the law not as static body of statutes but something to be questioned and challenged when appropriate. In some ways, law school simply tells students what the law is.” In collaboration with statewide human dignity groups, Marsha broke new ground with her work. She developed and presented “Beyond Know Your Rights” program at the Community Strategic Training Institute, the Pacific Northwest’s most important gathering of activists and organizers, she did original investigation into the detention and retained practices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Pacific Northwest, as well as advise individual coalition members on legal strategies.
The second project was preparation of a series of briefs defending asylum seekers. For Marsha, “the internship was a welcome reminder that the law is dynamic and is a dialogue with the community as to how we want to treat immigrants and minorities in the United States.” Her work on the briefs, submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, set forth in plain and forceful language why the firm’s clients were entitled to asylum. She adds that “I was extremely fortunate to work alongside the lawyers at ILG and I have no doubt that the internship was an experience that I will refer back to again and again in the course of my future career.”