February 11, 2020
In March, eight students from Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law will travel to Tijuana, Mexico, not to take part in an annual spring break ritual, but to perform the much more serious work of helping immigrants apply for asylum in the United States.
“It’s a good mix of people with different motivations,” said Ashley Silva-Guzman ’21, the community outreach chair of the Student Bar Association at McGeorge. “Some are from immigrant families, but some are not. One student has done asylum work with his church in Sweden, so he has religious motivations. We have another student who is an attorney from Brazil and is doing her master’s degree in law at McGeorge. So, she is an immigrant herself.”
Thousands of immigrants fleeing crime, corruption and drug cartel-fueled violence in their homes in Central America, Mexico and elsewhere have been halted at various cities along the U.S. border while they wait to have their asylum requests processed.
On Feb. 5, 30 volunteers in Sacramento wrote notes of encouragement in English, French, Spanish and Arabic to the immigrants to let them know they’re wanted in America and not to lose hope.
“Volunteers wrote messages including ‘stay strong. Keep fighting for asylum,’” Silva-Guzman said.
Students will distribute the cards when they’re in Tijuana in March.
Working with the nonprofit group Al Otro Lado (The Other Side), McGeorge students will also help immigrants fill out forms, help them prepare their stories and instruct them in the application process — including details as minute as listening for their court date so they don’t miss their next hearing.
Volunteers will also help with the day-to-day logistics of taking care of the immigrants: helping organize the nonprofit’s systems and caring for children while their parents are in workshops. Silva-Guzman said the work is personal for her.
“My grandmother came here from Mexico, and to know she came over with no problem and now people are being held in cages. … It’s a cognitive dissonance in my mind,” she said.
Students will leave Sacramento for Tijuana March 15 and return March 20.