Duke Law students held a letter-writing campaign to support women in Dilley, Texas, who are seeking asylum on the grounds of alleged domestic abuse.
Students and faculty alike wrote about 75 letters of encouragement as part of the campaign, which was sponsored by the Duke Immigrant and Refugee Pro Bono Project and part of Refugee Advocacy Week, a Duke School of Law initiative.
Anne Gordon, a senior lecturing fellow at the School of Law and director of externships, said the idea for the campaign came from a summer she spent volunteering at the South Texas Family Residential Center, an immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas.
“While I was there, I just saw so many mothers who were so frustrated and saddened and disempowered by the process that we put people through,” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, at least one other volunteer she worked with has hosted a similar campaign writing letters of support. Gordon believed these letters can be an important well of encouragement for the women detained waiting their day in court.
“It seems like everything they are shown from the moment they come to the United States is ‘we don’t want you here,’” Gordon said. “So we just wanted to counter that story they were getting and show them that there are people here who care about them and realize the struggle they have gone through to get here.”
The campaign was well-received by members of the Duke Law community. Student organizer and Ana Maganto Ramirez, a second year law student, said the letter-writing campaign allowed students to get involved even though they may not have the resources to help on a greater scale.
“The purpose of this event was to feel like you can do something and learn something even as we’re in a limited and constrained environment,” Ramirez said, explaining the campaign can provide students with a human perspective on topical immigration issues.
“I think it’s important to put a face and a name to the population that is actually being actually affected by the policy change and policy discussion,” Ramirez said.
Gordon also said the campaign can serve to humanize immigration issues and allow students to examine these issues outside of legal and policy discussions in class.
“It is important to let students know they can make a difference in someone’s life,” Gordon said. “I think sometimes that we teach them about legal cases and we teach them about policy, but we don’t often teach about people. So it’s a really important exercise for students to take a break and realize that there are people behind all these laws and policies we study.”
Correction: This article was updated Tuesday morning to correctly identify Ana Maganto Ramirez as a second year law student. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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