On Thursday, October 10th, the Riley’s Way Council took a field trip down to lower Manhattan to sit in on Immigration removal proceedings. These proceedings are set to determine an immigrant’s removability from the United States. Back in the middle of last year, around February, the entire council voted on an issue that we wanted to learn more about. Immigration was chosen, and a large portion of our work was focused on this major issue. The Riley’s Way foundation soon after partnered with KIND, an organization aiming to help kids in need of defense. KIND has helped thousands of young children feel protected and safe, the majority of these children fleeing from countries where they were in serious danger. In May 2019, a couple of girls from the council went to the KIND offices to witness the type of work that they would do on a regular day to day basis. Through their Legal Services, Administrative Outreach, International Programs, Social services, and further, KIND aims to protect as well as assist adolescent immigrants. This trip was beneficial for the entire council; We had been assured that the organization which we planned to work with would help us achieve our goals. At the end of May, Riley’s Way members hosted a letter-writing event, in which students from The Hewitt School and The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria came together to write letters to children who were at the moment confined in detention centers.
From witnessing the removal proceedings, I, as well as many other students, learned about the difficult process of obtaining legal immigrant status. Each case which we watched took approximately 5-10 minutes, with a brief conversation between the attorney and the judge. Firstly, she would state the day in which they entered the country, where they had come from, ask what they were seeking, and then book their final court date. The dates which she set were almost three years in advance, most of which would occur in the middle to end of the year 2023. As there is such a large number of immigrants in America, many have to wait an extensive amount of time until they can meet with a judge to determine if they are able to stay in the country or not.
In one particular case which we watched, the attorney representing the client was not prepared. He had falsely entered information about the immigrant whom he was working with, stating that she had three children (with a legal U.S resident) when she, in fact, had several more. Similarly in another case, where an attorney stated the day in which his client entered the country incorrectly.
These incidents shine light on one of the largest problems which are apparent in the American immigration process. A discrepancy exists among the legal system in the US and in several other countries. When immigrants enter the US, they might not have any idea about how our system differs from theirs. This could lead to issues because of the lack of legal education. For instance, immigrants in the past have hired notaries to represent themselves instead of lawyers, which are less expensive. However, American notaries do not have the same legal status as they do in other countries. In the US they do not have the ability to represent someone in court. The majority of people also do not have the money to afford a lawyer to represent themselves. They will resort to finding someone who can help them, but this will result not to be effective (as you understand from the scenarios above).
After taking this trip, the Riley’s Way Council better understood the process of American immigration. Being in the physical space, where immigration proceedings are held, provided students with the opportunity to take a closer look at this issue, in Immigration Court. Although the council has accomplished a lot, we still have a long road ahead to be the change-makers on this current issue.

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