During the spring 2017 semester, students from Concordia Law University and Boise State University collaborated with local immigration attorneys to represent individuals in the Boise immigration court who seek asylum, protection under the convention against torture, and special immigration juvenile status as part of PROJECT LAURA. Students from Boise State University assisted with bilingual interpretation during attorney-client visits, as well as with document translation.
Project LAURA is Boise’s legal community’s response to the Latin American refugee crisis. Since 2014, the number of Latin American families fleeing violence in the U.S. has significantly increased, and as of 2016, unrepresented refugees facing deportation total approximately two-thirds of all Boise’s non-detained removal cases. Until Project LAURA, no pro bono program existed in Boise to provide legal representation of these individuals.
Nicole Derden, immigration attorney and founder of Project LAURA, was the instructor of record for the Immigration Clinic at Concordia Law School, and Fatima Cornwall, federal certified court interpreter, was the instructor of record for the Department of World Languages with Boise State.
During the semester, all students were encouraged to observe hearings at the immigration court in Boise. Bilingual students were able to listen to the official interpretation provided by certified court interpreter Mark Conta, who later debriefed them on language and procedure questions.
The culminating project for all students was a mock immigration merits hearing at Concordia, where law students played the role of defense attorneys, and language students provided simultaneous and consecutive interpretation services. Several local attorneys who also taught the immigration clinic played different roles: Angela Richards played the role of judge and Angela Levesque played the role of therapist.
Many Idaho certified court interpreters also contributed to the success of the mock hearing. Diana Arbiser, federal court certified interpreter, was in charge of providing formative assessment during the mock hearing; Sandra Barrios, statewide language access manager for the Idaho Supreme Court, played the role of the monolingual Spanish-speaking respondent; and Vanesa Bell, language access coordinator for the fourth judicial district, was also in attendance.