TRII advocates and their stories: Benjamin Dombrowski

TRII advocates and their stories: Benjamin Dombrowski

The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) founded at Brandeis is a unique organization that trains undergraduates to become accredited representatives in immigration courts and to gain legal experience firsthand. It allows for immigrants to receive assistance with many types of legal processes, making sure they have the support and the knowledge they need.

Benjamin Dombrowski ’22 is an intended international and global studies and history major, who is an advocate within TRII and is also serving as the interim president of men’s rugby. An active participant in the Russian department as well, Dombrowski was trained through TRII’s program in the fall semester and is now an active member within TRII.

“I’ve always been interested in legal studies, and when I first learned about TRII, it seemed like a great way to get experience and to learn about the immigration system in a courtroom setting and get experience with legal writing, but I quickly realized once getting involved that there was so much more to it,” said Dombrowski. He explained that it is so much more than a volunteer group or a way to gain legal experience but that it is a true service to the people that TRII helps, and is “life-changing” work.

His personal ties to immigration come from his father, who is a German citizen. His mother is an American citizen, but Dombrowski was born in Germany and moved to the United States at the age of five. “The experience I’ve had is so dramatically different than what these people have had, but seeing what citizenship has done for my dad and the benefits that he’s gotten from being a citizen… sort of led me to this in a way, and I think has imparted on me a value of citizenship,” said Dombrowski.

His personal experience has also demonstrated the holes found in the citizenship process. For example, while he and his family moved to the United States when he was five, his father only just became a naturalized citizen a year and a half ago, and “he’s had to work, pay taxes, do all the things expected of a citizen in that time and still he only now took the test and has become a naturalized citizen.” Dombrowski also mentioned that his father’s track was easy compared to what other people have gone through, as he comes from a European country.

Currently, Dombrowski is working on a team with one other student and a volunteer attorney on an individual’s case. In preparation, Dombrowski and the rest of the team do independent research, the team meets weekly with the client, and help with preparing the application and affidavit for applying for asylum. They prepare for interviews with the client as well. “[We reassure] them that we’re going to meet deadlines and help them get the information they need,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski explained that the work at TRII can be challenging because while it is important, there is a lot at stake. “It’s so much more real and raw when you’re working with this one individual, learning their story, realizing that they only have a number of weeks to apply for asylum, and if they don’t, then they risk having to go back to a country that they fled for real, serious reasons, and that’s sometimes hard to reconcile and to deal with.” He mentioned that’s what makes being a member of TRII so fulfilling because the exchange of trust with clients allows students to see the positive results of their hard work and form lasting relationships with others.

Some of Dombrowski’s most positive experiences related to TRII involve his fellow members. “What really sticks out to me is being surrounded by people who are passionate and really committed to helping, not just to fixing the system and helping people through the system but helping individuals,” said Dombrowski of the inspiring work that the members of TRII do and the community that it fosters. “The time that they commit is just so impressive, how much of their life they give away for this free legal work. Really the people who come and the work they do [sticks out], it’s a great environment to be in.”

Dombrowski is potentially interested in pursuing international law in the future, but his involvement in TRII has opened doors and raised possibilities that didn’t exist before for other types of legal careers.

For those who are interested in participating in TRII but are unsure, Dombrowski advises that legal work is not the only type of opportunity that TRII offers. TRII also is involved with outreach programs, workshops, classes for high schoolers about immigration and lobbying local politicians for legislation. “If you’re not interested in actually being in the courtroom and working on paperwork, that doesn’t mean TRII isn’t a place for you to get involved… the more people who get involved, the bigger impact we can have.”

Menu Title