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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Road to Citizenship

For Amanda Hamilton ’14, the opportunity to assist qualified immigrants with their applications for U.S. citizenship was a profoundly gratifying experience. In April 2012, Hamilton was one of some 20 student volunteers who participated in a citizenship workshop co-sponsored by UC Hastings and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Northern California Chapter (AILA NorCal).

At the daylong event, Hamilton, who speaks Mandarin and Spanish, helped applicants complete forms, answered questions, and gained hands-on experience in the process.

“Unlike other areas of the law, where there can be conflict and unhappiness, people who are applying for citizenship are usually optimistic and full of excitement,” Hamilton says. “It’s rewarding to work in an atmosphere of optimism. And because so many questions on the forms relate to the applicants’ background and life stories, you inevitably form a bond with them.”

For the past four years, UC Hastings has collaborated with AILA NorCal on this workshop, which takes place in the law school’s Louis B. Mayer Lounge. Associate Dean for Experiential Learning Nancy Stuart ’94 recruits the student participants, whose volunteer hours count toward the pro bono program, and coordinates their training with AILA’s attorneys.

“It’s a great networking opportunity for students,” says AILA attorney Erin Quinn, “because everyone—students, lawyers, nonprofits—comes together to help lawful permanent residents with their applications. It’s a very meaningful event for the entire immigration law community.”

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