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Monday, April 29, 2013

Student Organizations: In Defense of Immigrants' Rights

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The students in the HSIR.

In June 2012, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would offer "deferred action" to qualified immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. The initiative galvanized Altin Dastmalchi '13. Long interested in immigration law, Dastmalchi created a new student organization called UC Hastings Students for Immigrants' Rights (HSIR).

"I envisioned creating an avenue for UC Hastings students to pursue their interest in immigration law," says Dastmalchi, "and to establish a process by which we could give back to the community."

One of HSIR's first projects is to help immigrants complete the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications. In this program, eligible immigrants--those who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, have continuously resided her for the past five years, and who meet several other criteria--may no longer be deemed deportable and may receive authorization to work legally in the United States.

HSIR plans to hold a series of workshops for members of the community. Once it is determined that the applicant meets the criteria, student volunteers will assist with the paperwork and submit the application to attorneys who have offered to help on a pro bono basis. HSIR also plans to provide other community services, such as helping immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence apply for visas. "Our hope is for students to gain hands-on experience as advocates," adds Dastmalchi, who was born in Iran and became a U.S. citizen in September 2012 at the age of 27. 

HSIR also hosts a variety of functions and networking opportunities. At the group's inaugural event, a panel on careers in immigration law, the speakers were the Hon. Dana Marks '77, an immigration judge; Kevin Crabtree '05, of the Law Office of Robert L. Lewis; and Angie Junck '04, a staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

"We want to connect students with alumni in the field," Dastmalchi adds. "These kinds of mentor-mentee opportunities will help students transform their interest in immigration law into a legal career."

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