Pro Bono Partner Steven Schulman Interviewed on NPR re: Immigration Reform

Akin Gump pro bono partner Steven Schulman appeared on NPR’s On Point program for the episode “Executive Action and Immigration Reform.”

Schulman, who participated in the interview from San Antonio, from where he was to visit an immigrant detention center, discussed a number of topics:

  • On the causes of the immigrant “surge”: “My client who’s detained in Karnes [City Residential Center]…and her 8-year-old daughter made the perilous journey from the capital of Honduras, where her daughter was threatened with rape, and she was threatened with murder because she wouldn’t pay the gangs extortion, and made her way all the way here, got to our border, and when she crossed the border, looked for and was hoping to find a border agent. Which is, again, another one of the misconceptions. Over the summer, when there was this surge of Central Americans, there was a sense of ‘If only we could put more people on the border and make sure that somehow we stop this surge.’ Well, the surge is coming not because we are inviting people up, not because we’re welcoming this with open arms, but because of what’s going on in their home countries.”
  • On the importance of legal aid to asylum seekers: “It’s not easy at all to work the system if you don’t have a lawyer, and that’s one of the key things here…The law—both our treaty requirements under the Refugee Convention and also the U.S. Refugee Act—requires us to screen people and determine if they are at risk from harm if they go home and then do a multistep determination of whether they merit protection under our asylum laws or under something called the Convention Against Torture. As you might imagine, that requires several steps of legal process, none of which are easy to navigate alone, particularly for a relatively unsophisticated person from another country who doesn’t speak our language, doesn’t understand our legal system. It’s virtually impossible for someone to come up and make it through by themselves without a lawyer.”
  • On the need for government action: “We’re certainly hoping there’s a more systemic effort, and, really, Congress needs to look at this. At the end of the day, the Obama administration is going to do what they’re going to do, but it’s not going to fix a broken system.”
  • On asylum seekers’ message to lawmakers: “What they’d like to say is, ‘Imagine that we are your wives, daughters, mothers, children. And think about how you’d like your relatives to be treated if they were to find themselves in an emergent situation.’ I can guarantee you that if another country was treating our citizens the way that we treat these citizens, we would not take it lying down.”

To read more about Akin Gump’s work at the Karnes City Residential Center, please click here.