After a year of asking for more legal assistance on immigration matters, the Attorney for Students hosted three immigration attorneys at Texas State at no charge to students seeking consultation.
While regular legal counseling is provided by the two current attorneys for students, additional immigration attorneys were brought to campus for Pro Bono Day April 18 for students with more specific questions regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, visas and other immigration related legal questions.
Shannon FitzPatrick, director of the Office of the Attorney for Students, and Kama Davis, attorney at law, opened their offices up to attorneys not employed by Texas State for work that was done pro bono, or free of charge, from 8:30a.m.- 4:00p.m.
Mark Kinzler, immigration attorney at The Law Office of Mark Kinzler P.C., provided consultation at Pro Bono Day for students’ personal needs and for students seeking advice for their friends and families.
Knowing individual rights was a major issue that often came up during Kinzler’s consultations.
“There’s another misconception that if you’re not a citizen, you don’t have rights in the country. It’s completely false,” Kinzler said. “It’s touted sometimes by anti-immigrant groups, but the rights of the constitution apply to anyone who’s in the jurisdiction of the United States.”
Leonardo de la Garza, immigration attorney at De La Garza P.L.L.C., was shocked by the level of interest of students who were only seeking more knowledge about the issues during their consultation.
“A theme I noticed (during consultations) was the sense of compassion and care that some of the students have for each other” de la Garza said. “Some students came here not only to ask questions about their situation but also to ask what they can do to help others. I found that really inspiring.”
Other common themes during consultations included legislative information about DACA and Senate Bill 4, clearing up confusion about immigration law for international and non-international students, supplying knowledge of undocumented individuals’ rights, and reminding students how they can change the situation through grassroots and non-profit work.
Kinzler and de la Garza spoke about common reasons students sought consultation but could not discuss specific instances due to the attorney-client privilege.
Pro Bono Day was organized at the same time that outspoken student support to have an immigration attorney on campus was catching the attention of university administration.
The Division of Student Affairs is currently creating a part-time position for the Attorney for Students that will provide consultation on immigration related matters but will not represent students in court.
Similar positions are usually slow to be created and filled, but President Denise Trauth said that this new position needs to be created and filled quickly.
“The administration is moving really fast on this. Davis said. “It sometimes will take nine months to a year to fill a position.”
Administration members are aiming to have the new position filled before classes start this fall.
“Because Trauth said that’s what needs to happen. We’re speeding it up triple speed that it normally goes,” FitzPatrick said.