When President Donald Trump first announced his temporary ban of travelers from Muslim majority countries earlier this year, Mitchell Hamline alums, faculty, and students were among those who jumped into action.
Kara Lynum ’11 (WMCL), an immigration attorney in St. Paul, worked with the International Refugee Assistance Project to coordinate volunteer shifts for lawyers who wanted to help those caught up in the ban at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
”I always knew we have a really great legal community here in Minnesota,” said Lynum. “I was so inspired by the overwhelming support that our project got from attorneys in every practice area.”
Lynum said hundreds of attorneys from across Minnesota and the Dakotas offered to help.
Volunteers monitored activity near the international arrivals gate at MSP, wearing badges identifying them as attorneys written in Farsi, Somali, and Arabic.
Their job was to answer questions or respond to concerns of immigrants entering the country, or visa holders returning from abroad.
Tara Murphy ’12 (WMCL) isn’t an immigration attorney, she practices intellectual property law in Minneapolis, but she felt it was her duty to volunteer.
“I went to law school to help people who were in power imbalances in relationships,” Murphy said. “I’ve always been a proponent of helping the underdog, someone who seems to have a system set up against them.”
Other alums have found ways to help outside the airport. Salima Khakoo ‘02 (HUSL) runs American Dream Law, an immigration firm in St. Paul.
“I’ve been offering two to three free phone consults a day,” said Khakoo. “I’m also helping with guidance on how to find attorneys who can help with specific matters like detained court.”
Faculty at Mitchell Hamline have gotten involved as well.
Ana Pottratz Acosta, a clinical instructor, has provided presentations on immigrant rights for the Hispanic Community through the school’s United Family Medicine Medical-Legal Partnership.
“This is one of those times in your life where if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk,” she said.
Paula Duthoy ’90 (WMCL) runs a private immigration firm and teaches in Mitchell Hamline’s immigration clinic. Duthoy has done similar immigration rights presentations in Twin Cities-area mosques. When the travel ban was announced, Duthoy also heard from Mitchell Hamline students interested in getting involved.
“A lot of students are asking what they can do to help out,” she said.
As a part of the Mitchell Hamline immigration clinic, students have gone to immigration detention court, to find people in need of legal assistance.
For student Maria Fernanda Torres De Jesus, who starts her third year at Mitchell Hamline in the fall, getting involved in the immigration clinic changed her course of study at Mitchell Hamline.
Torres De Jesus, who’s from Puerto Rico, focused on IP law during her first year at Mitchell Hamline. But since Trump’s immigration bans were announced, she felt the pull toward immigration law.
“We have to help our people,” she said. And for me our people is basically Hispanics all around the world. That’s pretty much the feeling I get when I’m in court and I can actually help someone.”
Torres De Jesus doesn’t graduate until 2018, but has already started working at an immigration firm in Bloomington. She says that’s where she plans to continue to do work on immigration issues after graduation.