Each semester, BYU Law students and faculty volunteers sit across the table from desperate but strong women who are seeking asylum. Having often traveled hundreds of miles through rough terrain and unspeakable circumstances, the majority of these women and children who arrive at the South Texas Family Residential Center will be sent back to the terrors of their home country if they do not receive legal assistance. However, when lawyers and law students are present to help, upwards of 90 percent of the women are released from detention to pursue asylum claims in the U.S.
“I think it is important for BYU Law to go to Dilley for two reasons,” said Professor Michalyn Steele. “One, the women and children there are among the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and desperately need advocates to help them navigate the start of the asylum application process. As a secondary matter, it allows those who go a chance to truly get proximate with a client and the law and to navigate that relationship.”
Lives are changed thanks to the many students and faculty who donate their time and share their legal knowledge. BYU Law students help prepare these women for their credible fear interview. They teach them how to tell their story and what is and is not important to share. Not only are the lives of those who are seeking asylum impacted by this important work, but the students come home changed as well.
“Meeting the women and children at the Dilley detention center was a defining experience for me,” said Ashley Waddoups, a second-year law student. “More than ever before, I saw the power of my legal education. Meeting the incredible women there, looking them in the eyes, hearing their stories, and truly coming to love them, is something that I will never forget.”
Waddoups is grateful for the donations that made it possible for her and the other BYU Law students to travel to Dilley, Texas, and get proximate while assisting this vulnerable population.