UHLC Vail Workshop Focuses on Needs of Unaccompanied Children


Geoffrey A. Hoffman, director of the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic, discusses the different ways attorneys can aid unaccompanied children with their immigration status.

Oct. 6, 2014 – Nearly 60,000 children have been caught crossing the U.S. border since Oct. 2013, and throughout their journey they become witnesses or even victims of crimes, said Veronica Bernal, an immigration clinical supervising fellow at  UH Law Center. Bernal along with nine immigration specialists spoke as a part of the 14th annual Joseph A. Vail workshop.

The event was hosted by the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic, the Cabrini Center of Catholic Charities and YMCA international. The annual workshop is named in honor of the late Law Center Professor Joseph A. Vail who founded the Immigration Clinic.

Bernal noted that unaccompanied children oftentimes escape from their home country because of domestic violence, pressure for child marriage, gender threats or even sexual exploitation, but when they arrive in the U.S. the new threat becomes immigration status.

The workshop was designed to advise attorneys on how to help immigrant children and women and covered many topics including the Violence Against Women Act, Crime Victims Visa, Human Trafficking Visa, and Asylum.

“It is our duty as attorneys, to figure out what is the best option for our client.” said Susham Modi, an adjunct professor and clinical supervising attorney at the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic.

“We do not always know the hardship or the situation of the client, which is why we should ask.” Modi said as he was discussing the different types of visa that exist for crime victims. 

In the day-long workshop, Geoffrey A. Hoffman, director of the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic, spoke about asylum claims.

Hoffman emphasized the importance of knowing how to approach the client, especially children who can be sensitive.

“We are proactive in the clinic; we call their house or go out and meet our client if we have to, because at times they do not have ways of coming out here,” he said.

He also encouraged attorneys in attendance to do their part.  

“We are here to serve you as mentors,” Hoffman said.

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