Elizabeth Pierson ’12
Exploring Immigration Law
Elizabeth Pierson ’12 had her first experience working with migrants and refugees in the summer of 2010. Through an internship at Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), Pierson learned about the struggles migrants faced trying to build safe, permanent lives.
This summer, sponsored again by the CPGC, she is pursuing her on-going interest in immigration law with Catholic Charities’ Legal Services for Immigrants (LSI). The Milwaukee program provides low-cost legal aid to those attempting to obtain legal status for themselves and/or their families.
Pierson, who is considering going to law school, is working as an assistant to LSI’s lawyers. In addition to office tasks such as filing, translating and organizing, she works on affidavits that are submitted with applications for legal status. For several applications or petitions, the clients are required to submit documents that demonstrate an extreme hardship or abuse. They also have to turn in a signed and sworn statement about their experiences. Pierson conducts interviews in Spanish and then, while preserving the voice of the client, translates them into English.
Pierson’s work with LSI has relates well to her summer 2010 internship in Mexico City. “The Catholic church,” she says, “takes a strong position on immigrants rights as a human rights issue.” Recalling her trip, Pierson talks about a mural she saw that bore the slogan, “Si el migrante no es tu hermano, Dios no es tu Padre,” which means, “If the migrant is not your brother, God is not your father.”
Though her work with LSI has sharpened her understanding of the issue, Pierson says immigration legislation is still “mind-bogglingly complex.”
“I find it very difficult to see how anyone can want to kick people out of the country when all they’ve done for the past twenty years is work hard and pay taxes,” she says.
President Obama’s DREAM Act, enacted in June, was certainly a step in the right direction, says Pierson, who reports that the President’s televised announcement was an event in her office. “As I listened, I thought of a client’s daughter I was working with who was eligible to benefit from the relief,” says Pierson. “She came here as a small child and knows no other country. That was an exciting moment.”
—Erin Adaline Seglem ‘14