Success Stories

Its so gratifying when I hear from lawyers that my evaluations helped their clients to obtain their legal status.  Here’s an email I received from a lawyer last week:

XXX (you did the psychological exam for his wife, YYY– re hardship) was granted adjustment of status and the 212(h) waiver on Friday morning. The psychological exam really helped (the Trial Attorney mentioned it – the government did not oppose the hardship after looking at all of the documentation), so thank you. He’s been trying to get his green card since 1998 (!) and the case has been on the Judge’s docket for six years. They were both so happy and I’m sure feel somewhat more free without this immigration issue hanging over their heads. I want to always try to keep you updated about the outcomes of the cases and there have been a lot of good ones lately – and the psych exams are always such a help! So, thanks again.

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Human Trafficking (T visas)

Another type of evaluation I often perform are human trafficking assessments (T Visas).  In conducting these evaluations, I hear stories of people who were lured to the United States with promises of a brighter future and lucrative job opportunities.  However, once they arrive in the United States, they are essentially enslaved.  New to the United States and usually with very limited English and no knowledge of the geographic area or resources available to them, these undocumented immigrants are afraid to try to escape their situation.

Most recently I have done several evaluations for people brought to the U.S. as “babysitters”.  They are confined to the home, not paid and in many instances they are not even provided the basic necessities like sufficient food, a bed to sleep on or a change of clothing.  They are often verbally abused and belittled.  In some cases the immigrant also faces physical or sexual abuse.

The emotional impact of such treatment is usually substantial.  These clients have come to the U.S, because in their country of origin they were impoverished and without opportunities.  They were willing to endure the separation from their loved ones and the life they understood in the hope of achieving financial stability.  To then be confined and controlled, often over years of time, unpaid or minimally paid, these victims frequently internalize a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  They feel isolated and alone, and usually fall into a state of depression and despair.

My evaluations help to prove the significant long-term emotional impact these clients endure.  Although the clients I meet with have escaped from their confinement, many live with chronic depression and low self-esteem.  With the support of my clinical evaluation to add strength to their legal case, these clients hope for better prospects in the U.S. if and when they obtain their documentation.  This is often the one hope that keeps them going, striving for a future where they have the opportunity to be paid for honest work.

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Tahiri Justice Center

Another great community resource for immigrants is the Tahiri Justice Center.

Here’s the link: http://www.tahirih.org/

From their website:

The Tahirih Justice Center is an innovative, efficient, and strategic nonprofit organization that works to protect immigrant women and girls from gender-based violence through legal services, advocacy, and public education programs.

I have done some pro bono and low-fee work for Tahhiri and find them to be extremely professional and caring in their work with clients.

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NY Times Article on depression in developing nations

I wanted to share this interesting article about the prevalence of depression in countries where poverty is rampant and often there is political strife.  Not surprising that depression rates are high when people are impoverished, feel they have no way out and may be unable to express thier views for fear of govenment persecution.  I see this routinely in the clients I meet with.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/fighting-depression-one-village-at-a-time/

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Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma

If you are working with trauma survivors, Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma is an excellent resource for support services.

http://www.astt.org/

From their website:

In your country, did you ever experience violence or fear for your life because
of your political activities, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation?

Were you ever detained, arrested, or jailed because you were involved in movements for democratic reform, human rights, or social justice?

Was anyone in your family threatened because of your beliefs or actions?

Were you or a family member ever hurt physically or emotionally by members of the government, military, militias, police, or political groups?

Are you seeking asylum in the United States because of persecution in your country?

You are not alone.

Since our beginning in 1994, ASTT staff has worked with over 1,000 clients from 38 countries. ASTT works with people who suffered torture or trauma in their home countries. ASTT can help you find legal help, housing, medical care, food, English classes, and other resources. We can help you regain a sense of safety, trust, and empowerment through working with a case manager or counselor in a caring, supportive environment. For more information about our services and how we can help you, please contact Maria at 410-464-9006 or info@astt.org.

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CAIR Coalition

For anyone interested in immigration rights issues, check out the Capital Area Immigration Rights Coalition (CAIR Coalition).  The website is: http://www.caircoalition.org/.

With links to recent articles and an excellent and informative listserv, this group creates a community for people working for and with immigrants.

For example, this recent article http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/17/local/me-immigjail17 about immigrant detention centers.

I am grateful to be a member of this coalition, to feel linked to others working to help immigrants and part of a larger community.

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What to look for in a clinical evaluator for an immigration case:

  • Look for a therapist (Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Clinical Psychologist) who has experience  doing clinical evaluations specifically for immigration purposes.
  • A good evaluator will be able to create an open and sharing environment for the client.  Sometimes this is the first time (or close to the first time) the client has ever discussed these difficult life issues or events, so having an empathic clinician is critical.
  • The therapist should be able to convey to the client understanding and validation of their feelings and experience, normalizing the responses the client has had to what may be a highly traumatic event.
  • Choose a clinician who has knowledge of community-based organizations that can provide low-fee mental health services on an ongoing basis for clients.  Referrals for services are an important part of follow-up to an evaluation.
  • As part of a thorough evaluation, it may come out that other traumas – beyond the specific trauma related to the immigration case – may be revealed.  There are times when the client enters into their immigration situation with pre-existing life situations that cause them to be particularly vulnerable emotionally.  A savvy clinician will be able to assess for any pre-existing mental health conditions.
  • Often the client will admit that it was a relief to discuss their life with someone who is open and understanding and there is a feeling of catharsis in being able to share their burden – this is an indication of a strong clinician.
  • Strong writing skills are critical.  Its one thing to be able to be empathic and and be able to make a clinical diagnosis, but it is critical to be able to document in writing the client’s situation: clearly, concisely and professionally.
  • The clinician should have excellent verbal skills in case testimony in court is needed.
  • Look for a clinician who works well with attorneys, not just clients.  Its important that the therapist have at least a basic understanding of immigration law and take into consideration the particulars of the case.
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