“I’ll Never Forget”: Cornell Law Students On Border, Heading To Tijuana

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Photo courtesy of Victoria Inojosa, Professor Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, Diana Caraveo Parra

A group of students and a professor from Cornell Law School are helping with asylum claims at the largest family detention center in the country. L-R: Victoria Inojosa, Professor Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, Diana Caraveo Parra, Arielle Wisbaum. Not pictured: Hillary Rich, Linda Lin, Emily Szopinski, and Carlos Calderon

A group of Cornell Law Students and their professor have been volunteering on the Texas border this week. They are helping mothers and children in the largest family immigration detention center in the country to file asylum claims.

The center is in Dilley, Texas. A remote town of about 4,000 people located over an hour’s drive south of San Antonio.

The students have been interviewing women about the experiences that caused them to flee their homes and seek asylum thousands of miles away. From there they will be interviewed by an asylum officer who will decide if they have a “credible fear”. If so, they will be allowed to leave the detention center to join family or friends in the U.S. until their immigration court date.

Buffalo native, Arielle Wisbaum said children often insist on staying with their mothers. That means they are present as their mothers emotionally recount sexual assaults, gang murders and other violence they’ve experienced. Wisbaum says it’s exposure to the violence has also affected the children, even toddlers.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Wisbaum said. “And I am just praying that, you know these kids are still young, and they have their whole lives ahead of them. And I’m just praying that their journey is just going to get better from here and that they can find places that they can be safe.”

On Sunday, Arielle and two other students will continue on to Tijuana where they will be helping people on the other side of the border hoping to enter the U.S.