by Teresa Watson
Read the initial post at this link: https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/01/25/the-dilley-project-ub-students-at-the-us-mexico-border-1st-post/
First day in Dilley: 1/21/19
I didn’t have the energy to write out notes last night, beyond some bullet points, so I’m writing this morning from the facility while I wait for my partner to finish up a “Charla” (a chat or conversation), which is essentially a group informational session to inform the clients about the Credible Fear Interview (CFI) process they will undertake to establish that they are eligible to make their Asylum claims in court, and about how the volunteer lawyers will help them talk through their asylum claims before the have to meet with the Asylum Officer to present their claim.
Our morning began very early, getting up at 6 AM in order to grab showers, eat breakfast at the hotel and arrive at a neighboring hotel for a make-up training for the one we missed Sunday night. It was really interesting, and I took a ton of notes – the team here has really gotten specific with what does and doesn’t work well here, with legal cases.
I have a ton of updates! It turns out that I’m doing almost the exact same work as the law students, at least during the day: I am doing CFI (Credible Fear Interview) Prep sessions with Cary, an attorney and one of our team who is helping to translate for me. As I talked to the other teams, it seems all teams broke down the roles in similar ways: Cary translates the gist of the information for me, and I take notes and do slightly more of the structural/legal labor for the case (I will explain more on that later); Cary does more of the intensive labor of listening for important details, which we can further discuss with the client to see if those experiences are likely to qualify them for asylum. Since I am keeping notes – and luckily I understand enough Spanish to take super-basic notes on the details the women tell to Cary. I then flesh them out when his translates. I create timelines to fit the women’s cases to the structure the Dilley project uses to help women meet asylum criteria. I try to be sure we review all of the questions that the asylum office will ask the women, as well as some screening questions – to determine if they were illegally denied entry at the border, if they are pregnant, if they have been separated from their family by the detention centers, if they have experienced domestic violence.
I find that I’m worried about the client interviews, and that I cannot know if I’m doing enough to prepare them. A few hours is such a small amount of time for someone to tell their entire life’s story, or to establish the threats to their liberty or life that they have lived with and had to flee from. I also find that the language barrier is a tremendous frustration when I can’t respond directly to their questions, revelations, etc. We only talked to three women yesterday, and we started around 12:30 PM, and went until 7:30 PM; the on-the-ground volunteers tell us that we will get faster, and more confident and comfortable, as the week goes on.
Teresa’s third post will be published January 28, 2019.