Blog Entry 11

Posted by David Koelsch
David Koelsch
David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law C
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on Thursday, 20 October 2011
in Faculty Blogs

The summer semester recently ended and the students and I can breathe a (brief) sigh of relief.  The summer semester compresses a 14-week semester into seven weeks and it is, to say the least, intense.  The students this summer were an amazing collection of rising 3Ls and one student in her final semester of law school.  Some of them had taken Immigration Law from me and thought they knew what to expect going into the summer term and others had no clue what to expect.  As it turns out, they were all on equal footing because the cases in the clinic this summer were some of the most technically-complex and emotionally-wrenching we have ever handled. 

The students prepared an asylum application for a man who had been tortured, raped and cast out from his family.  The students saw first hand how a person’s faith can sustain him in his darkest hours.  This semester we also took on a number of new cases involving immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence.  Many immigrant women, especially those without legal status, hesitate to come forward and report abuse because they fear they will be deported or ostracized from their family and community.  Students met and earned the trust of several remarkably brave women.  Students also worked with an immigrant woman whose children are in foster care, in part, because she lacks legal status.  The students worked tirelessly to help start the process for this woman to gain status so she can be reunited with her sons.  And, the students worked with several young men and women from Central America who fled abusive families to help them gain status and protection in the U.S.

Perhaps one of the most gratifying moments for me this past semester was helping to re-light the fire under a law student.  He entered law school with passion and high hopes but, by the end of second year, he was demoralized, sick of law school and despairing of his career choice because he thought it was not a good fit for his personality.  The clinic turned it all around for him.  I could tell the first day of class that he would rather be anywhere than in the clinic and he even admitted to me privately that he only took the Immigration Law Clinic because it fit his work and class schedule. 

As a form of social engineering, I gave him one of our toughest cases and he rose to the challenge.  Once he met with the client, he was hooked and saw all of the good he could do with a law degree.  After three weeks, he was begging for more assignments and was energized to do all he could for his clients.  At the end of the semester, he told me that he is thinking about a career in Immigration Law and, even if he does not pursue that goal, the clinic made him remember why he went to law school.  Winning cases for clients is important but helping to get a law student back on track is what makes it all worthwhile. 

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About the author

David Koelsch

David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic and the Asylum Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The Immigration Law Clinic represents immigrants on a variety of legal issues, including abandoned immigrant children and abused immigrant women. Professor Koelsch also teaches U.S. Immigration Law and a comparative U.S.-Canada Immigration Law course as well as a Seminar on Spirituality and the Law. Koelsch was named the 2009 Outstanding Immigration Law Professor by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.