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Dayton Docket

Law Students Help Afghan Refugees Find A Home

Hannah Fard and Adam Satterfield were among the students who volunteered for a day in March to help recent immigrants to the United States.

But at the time, they didn’t realize that one day would stretch into months of work and have more of an impact than they ever expected.

The event on that March day was one organized by the University of Dayton’s School of Law and Human Rights Center to help immigrants file the paperwork they needed for various legal statuses in the United States. It was work UD Law Professor Ericka Curran has been doing for more than 20 years as an immigration attorney. But on this day there was an issue.

“We quickly realized at the event we wouldn’t be able to finish things that day,” Professor Curran says.

Among those at the event were around 30 evacuees from Afghanistan. Those are the cases Professor Curran took on with the help of Hannah and Adam.

“When people were evacuated from Afghanistan they were given a status known as parole, which allowed them to stay in the U.S. for two years, but it’s not a permanent type of status,” Professor Curran says. “So there were other types of applications to help people get permanent residence or apply for asylum.”

Both Hannah and Adam brought important experiences to the work aside from what they’ve learned in law school so far.

Hannah, who is in her final year of law school, speaks Farsi, a language common to the Afghan refugees, which allowed her to translate.

“Hannah has the language background and understands the cultural things that were happening with the clients, so she was able to help guide all of us at the event,” Professor Curran says.

Adam, who is part of the law school’s Online Hybrid program, was able to add his perspective as a major in the U.S. Air Force, since many of the evacuees had served in the Afghan military alongside U.S. forces.

“Adam understanding those systems and where those clients were coming from was valuable,” Professor Curran says.

As they started meeting with clients and working on cases, Hannah quickly realized how impactful the work could be.

“It was such a rewarding experience. I never thought I’d feel so good afterwards,” Hannah says. “It’s good to gain a perspective of other people’s lives you never had before.”

Adam was also struck by the difference he could make by helping the evacuees.

“These are people who have supported the U.S. military and paid a tremendous price for that and they need a home,” Adam says. “You think someone is working on this problem, but oftentimes you find there aren’t as many people working on the problem as there could be, so you have to get involved where you can.”

Along with providing them with perspective, the work has also allowed Hannah and Adam to gain valuable experience that will help them after law school.

“I had the opportunity to work closely with clients, which I’d never done before,” Hannah says. “It helps build your interviewing and client-relation skills.”

Adds Adam, “To see how the legal system impacts someone’s life in a real way and is tied to major world events is something you can’t just simulate in a classroom, you have to be there and be a part of it.”

Professor Curran says UD Law does a great job giving students opportunities to get real world experience while helping their community through things like the Immigration Clinic and collaborations with non-profits.

“Students at UD Law are very passionate about helping others,” Professor Curran says. “As lawyers, part of our oath of professional responsibility is to provide pro bono work, so starting that in law school and making sure students understand our responsibility as lawyers to serve our communities is wonderful.”

Both Adam and Hannah say they’d like to continue this work no matter what field of law they eventually go into.

“I don’t see the need going away anytime soon,” Adam says. “There will always be people who need a home and need to go through this process.”

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