To acquire wisdom, one must observe

The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) aids individuals in their immigration process during a pandemic

UPDATED: 4/23/2021, 10:30 a.m.

TRII is a 501(c)(3) organization that was founded by three students and a professor with the goal of aiding individuals in the immigration process and making sure that no one goes through it alone. Sara Hogenboom ’21, one of TRII’s most active student members, specifically highlights that “clients who didn’t have an attorney were 90 percent more likely to get their case rejected, but if they had an attorney that would go down to 50 percent, so their chances will increase overall” in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. The organization has evolved to now serve the legal immigration needs of the greater Waltham community. They are more deeply rooted in the community and have developed relationships with other organizations, so that clients get access to what they need. 

Members of TRII explained that they had to transition really quickly to being entirely digital in the spring. Due to the fact that libraries and hotspots were closed, many of their clients were not able to access some of the resources that they would normally be able to access. “It was just a really steep learning curve, but we managed to do it, and we still continue to meet through video chat with clients and do meetings with the student association over Zoom,” Hogenboom explained. Noa Reiter ’22, another active member of TRII, explains that the group had to support each other and problem solve during this hard time. 

“A lot of things can be done online and that really opens up a lot of possibilities for us in terms of our reach, and who we can serve and who we can be in contact with, and a growing interest in recent months has been immigration work related to domestic abuse,” Reiter explained. “There’s a concerted effort to really increase our connections with domestic violence organizations in the Boston area to try to help those who kind of crossover between domestic violence legal issues and immigration issues.” 

In terms of the changes they made last semester, their training program had to be entirely online. Their training program trains students to become accredited representatives. Hogenboom explains that it was “very strange to meet a new group of advocates online and not in person and to have to form relationships that way, and then to have incoming advocates form relationships with each other that way is also difficult, but I think we managed to do it.” 

TRII has a weekly meeting on Fridays with student advocates and volunteer lawyers to discuss the cases the group will take on and who to assign those cases to. In terms of specific cases, advocates and attorneys will make their own schedule for meeting with their clients. This may be every week, or if the client is close to submitting an asylum application, it could be daily. Sometimes there are meetings between the advocate and the attorney to discuss options. Going digital has enabled TRII to have a regular Friday meeting that everyone can attend. 

TRII has recently moved, and they are now close to the Community Day Center. In the last few weeks, they have discussed amending a new mission statement and vision statement to move them forward as an organization mostly run by students. TRII has also discussed creating changes in the training program to allow for more hands on work. A new training by the Department of Justice (DOJ) is essentially a crash course in immigration law and 60 observations or hands on hours are needed. The training is a semester long and meets for an hour and a half weekly, After that an individual is able to apply to be an accredited representative through the DOJ.

Hogenboom explains that Douglas Smith, the legal director of TRII says “90 percent of this work is building relationships and the other 10 percent you can look up, so it really is about building trust between you and your client and between your client and your team.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that TRII moved to the Waltham Community Center. TRII recently moved to the Community Day Center.

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