Link To Guest Website: https://www.scijimmigration.org/
Title: “Training Students To Give Legal Representation For Immigrants in Need”
Guest: Jonathan Goldman of The Student Center For Immigrant Justice
Interviewer: Jeffrey Davis – MAGE LLC
Click here to read the transcript
Well, hello everyone. And welcome back to Radio Entrepreneurs. It’s me again, Jeffrey Davis, the host, And I want to thank Jonathan Freedman who stepped in for me while I was, hiding away as a working with clients, but also rewriting my book for the next edition. And it’s a nice to be back and then nice to be talking with Jonathan Goldman, executive directors, student clinic for immigrant justice. Wow. That’s quite a title. It’s almost like a Marvel comic book title and you are the superhero for student justice.
Our goal is to take on the momentous challenge of trying to address the inequities in our immigration system. And so some days it really does feel like we are taking on a super villain and trying to do everything we can to come together as a team to solve this larger issue.
So tell us about a S C I J.
Jonathan (1m 3s):
So yeah, so what we do is we train college students to provide free legal representation to asylum seekers and to organize for immigrant justice. And basically the way that works is we partner with different schools. Right now, we’re partnered with Worcester State University and Brown University. And then we have students who go through a training program with us, and then they go on to get paired up with immigration attorneys, to work on asylum cases, taking on the bulk of that case work. And then also working with local immigrant communities to advocate for a local level of policy change as well.
Jeffrey (1m 34s):
So how did you get into this? This isn’t just something, you know, you, you know, as a seven-year-old, you’d sit in bed and thinks that this is what I want to do for a living.
Jonathan (1m 42s):
I actually, a, before I started college, I was convinced that I was never going to go near law. I thought I was going to do a engineering management. So M truly is a different career path than I imagined, but it is very much connected to my background. I was born in Denmark, in a small town called left wing population to like maybe 60 on a good day I’m. And I moved to the U S one was about two years old, moved to what I would loosely describe as like a hippie commune down in Maryland. And so he grew up in this environment of, you know, adults, unconditionally caring for each other of consensus decision making, pulled resources co-housing. And I think the contrast I saw between my experience of coming to the us and that of so many others tied with, you know, those values that we’re we’re, we’re, we’re showed.
Jonathan (2m 28s):
And to me in growing up in Maryland really had a big impact. And as what’s driven me towards immigrant justice being involved in activism I’m and in college, I had actually, co-founded an organization that was training college students at Brandeis to provide free legal services to immigrants and ended up being a really successful a program that continues to exist to this day. I kept working after I graduated, but then was really trying to think about how do we take what’s been really successful? What is the only program in the country doing the sort of work and try and create something that is now a scalable and replicable, a more collaborative, and that’s what let do lead to the student clinic, immigrant justice being founded
Jeffrey (3m 4s):
Well, I mean, that’s quite, did you where you the founder?
Jonathan (3m 8s):
Yup. Yup. So we actually just started last year prior to knowing that there is going to be a global pandemic, certainly made things a lot more interesting. And yet, you know, we’re able to successfully train 27 students. And we actually just had a survey with our students last week where a a hundred percent of students so that they would recommend this program to other students. So it’s also just really promising to just see what a positive experience that’s been. And we’ve heard amazing feedback from our partner or attorneys as well. So really excited to, and I’ll try and bring this to the additional schools as upcoming fall.
Jeffrey (3m 39s):
What did you do before this? I know you talked a little bit about your personal experience, but what was your career experience to the lead you to this, but a, so
Jonathan (3m 47s):
This organization, I started as JJ, only a year out of college. So, you know, the work that I was doing before then was also doing immigration legal work. And I was doing that throughout college. I basically, I always had my schedule. So I was doing classes Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then I could focus on, you know, basically running an organization and all of the other days, but the week. And then in addition to that, I’ve also been involved and a wide variety of different things, both working on political campaigns, but also I’m on the technical side, that was a technical advisor for a publishing company called near the press and training. So it spins a sort of a, a wide variety of different experiences, but often tied to ideas of trying to make the world a better place.
Jeffrey (4m 34s):
Is this a whole immigrant issue? A big problem?
Jonathan (4m 39s):
I mean, so to, to give you a sense of the extent of it, there was about 1.3 million pending immigration cases, right now, 1.1 million of those are asylum cases. I’m. And when someone does not have representation in a silent proceedings, they normally lose their cases about 90% of the time. Ah, but with representation now about five times more likely to win. Now, obviously the fact that the case aren’t changing weather or not someone has representation, but you know, their ability to navigate the system does change. And so that’s really what we’re trying to address is that over a million of cases that are out there and trying to really bridge that gap of helping people navigate those incredibly complex system, well,
Jeffrey (5m 18s):
That was or impressive statistics. And do you have any competitors out there doing what you’re doing that?
Jonathan (5m 24s):
I mean, there are some organizations that are trying to also get this idea of, there’s just literally not enough immigration attorneys that are out there. They’re, there’s a report just a couple of years ago that basically estimated that they needed to be about four times the number of legal professionals working on asylum cases to bridge this gap. And so that’s not magically, they’re not magic. They’re going to be, you know, four times the number of immigration attorneys and so some organizations, or is there anything that like, you know, how do we bridge that gap? But no, one’s entered this space thinking about how do we tap into the over a million college students that put in dozens and dozens of volunteer work every single year and how do we tap into that energy? And so that’s where we’re really trying focus on is, is tapping into this knowledge there’s resources and everything else that exists on campus is to mobilize that towards advocating for immigrant justice.
Jeffrey (6m 8s):
Wow. Do you see this as a, a, a changing issue under the current, a white house in administration
Jonathan (6m 15s):
In some ways? Yes and no. I mean, there’s, you know, been, been some sort of a headline changes that have happened, but I would say on the day to day for anyone who is really working on immigration cases, that hasn’t felt like a bunch of change. And I imagine that that a lot won’t change really, even over the next three years and a big part. That’s just because we saw so many changes over the last four years that unless we had someone who’s just, you know, laser-focused on trying to really, back-track all those changes that have happened. We were still really facing an uphill battle. So I’m hopeful, but at the same time, it’s going to take a lot of work of making sure people aren’t taking their foot off the gas pedal and really pushing to, to continue to see those changes.
Jeffrey (7m 2s):
Interesting. A how do you get your clients? How do you do marketing?
Jonathan (7m 8s):
Yes. So right now, a, almost all of our clients were actually brought to us by our partner attorney. So the way that works after students go through a training program, which all happens during the fall semester, we pair students up with different immigration attorneys, both private attorneys and attorneys, that nonprofit organizations that have partnered with us to have a student work with them on a case. So it’s almost like basically getting like, you know, a paralegal played in a place with you on the case, but rather than having, you know, an intern who’s coming in and that doesn’t really have any background, they’ve gone through this training with us, have some hands on experience. So they come in and they were in that case. So a of those cases that students have been working on, we’ve been working with 17 different clients, almost all of those were the ones that a attorneys brought to us, but we had to attorneys who said, you know, we don’t really have in cases that, you know, to fit the bill for this, can you make a referral I’m and say, Hey, we reached out to just community partners, different organizations and said, Hey, we have the ability to take on additional cases.
Jonathan (8m 6s):
And so then we were able to place them a with the attorneys. And one of those cases, actually, a, this client she’s from Haiti and her case, she, she had a filing deadline that was like a month after we took it on M and generally doing the silent case takes around for months. And somehow between the students, we have two students working with as attorney, they manage to get the case in on time and really, you know, missing or a filing deadline. And in immigration is that difference basically, between being able to remain here and have your case heard versus being deported and going back to the country that, that in the case of asylum that you were fleeing. So, you know, that’s just one example of a huge difference that he was able to make ’cause we can rapidly mobilized people who’ve been put on the time, the work that goes in to these complex cases,
Jeffrey (8m 50s):
Who is the way that you have staph with you. Yes.
Jonathan (8m 54s):
So there was myself, a Stuart men who his access to justice fellow, a in his attorney working with as part time. And then we have the campus organizer at Bose brown and Worcester I’m. And the reason why we even have four people on our staff right now is part of our partnerships with schools is really trying to leverage having a collaborative relationship of the school. So, you know, a lot of programs oftentimes to sort of have like a programmatic school in its kind of on to the side. There’s not really that much interaction like students kind of sign up, show up. And we really want to think about how do we have a real relationship with different offices, different departments, just, you know, really capitalize on the resources that we have access to being connected to the schools. And so a part of that is having a work study position that every school commits to, to support our program.
Jonathan (9m 40s):
And so they actually are paying for both of those positions of having an organizer at brown and what’s your, and this would be true for every school that we’re at. And so that also helped the long term sustainability of our program. ’cause we have that additional staffing help for every school that we’re partnered with. Wow.
Jeffrey (9m 55s):
A we’ve been speaking with Jonathan Goldman executive director, a student clinic for immigrant justice. Jonathan of someone wants to find a, I S C I O J and U how would they find you? Yes.
Jonathan (10m 9s):
So they can go to S C I J immigration.org. Again, that’s S O C I J, or immigration.org. Mmm. You can learn more about a program they’re if you are yourself in attorney and our interested in getting support from a program, you can also sign up there. And if your interested in supporting and helping us expand traditional schools, we’re also always looking for support as well, but a really appreciate your, you having us here on getting to share that the mission and the work that we’re doing.
Jeffrey (10m 36s):
Thank you very much, Jonathan. We hope we speak to you again and remind everybody, this is Radio Entrepreneurs.
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