People of SU / Society / Justice and Law

Law Students Help Ukrainian Refugees Start Asylum Process

Written by Claudine Benmar

April 4, 2022

Volunteers and refugees gather at a table to work on applications.

Image credit: Lincoln Vander Veen

Seattle University School of Law partners with Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest to provide legal assistance to Ukrainian refugees.

On April 3, more than a dozen Seattle University law student volunteers gathered at Everett Community College—overseen by professors and licensed attorneys—to help more than 30 Ukrainian refugees fleeing their war-torn country complete the initial paperwork required to seek asylum in the United States.

The refugees traveled through multiple countries and arrived in the United States on foot through the southern border with Mexico. They were granted what’s known as “humanitarian parole,” which is temporary. A grant of asylum offers permanent protection, but the process can take up to two years.

Associate Professor Deirdre Bowen, the Moccasin Lake Foundation Chair in Family Law, recruited students from her classes, as well as the attorney mentors who trained and supervised the students.

“Some of these refugees have gone through a horribly traumatic experience and I want [the students] to develop the empathy to always remember that these are human beings and that part of your lawyering skills is to learn empathy,” she told KING 5 News.

Visiting Assistant Professor Paula Enguídanos, a 2003 alumna who practiced immigration law before joining the School of Law faculty, and 2014 alumnus Patrick Patton, who currently practices immigration law at Salish Sea Law Group in Tacoma, trained the student volunteers on how to help the refugees.

Beyond the legal expertise students can offer, law student Alicia Edwards, ’22, says it was meaningful to the refugees simply to be welcomed and treated with compassion. As Christians, she and her family fled religious persecution in their home country of Moldova in 1994.

“People don’t just leave their countries overnight, on a whim,” says Edwards. “They're coming here because it’s life or death for them. They’re wondering if they’re welcome here. So that human element, that compassion, is very important.”

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