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Mysterious Girl
Back to Intern and Volunteer Voices
David Rutan
Pro Bono Attorney

Why did you choose to volunteer with the Catholic Charities of Los Angeles Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project?

I volunteered because I wanted to help someone.

What was your experience like working as a pro bono attorney at Esperanza?

It was very fulfilling. After completing the process (with the help of Esperanza), I could not imagine trying to navigate the process as an asylee.

What was your experience like working with your client?

My experience was great. My case lasted almost two years, and I saw incredible growth in my client during that time. For example, he barely spoke any English when I first met with him, but during the last meeting, he was conversing with me without the need for an interpreter. I was also lucky because my client was older (17 when the case started), so I could communicate directly with him without needing to go through his guardian.

Tell us a little bit about your client’s form of relief and claim. What was the result in the case?

My client was seeking asylum on the basis of being a part of his family. He was targeted by a notoriously dangerous gang in his home country after a father-like figure in his family was murdered by the gang. Thereafter, he was approached by the gang, asked if he was related to the slain relative, and threatened when he answered affirmatively. His asylum application was approved after his asylum interview. The interview occurred in October 2017, and we received the decision in April 2019.

How did you feel after you received the result in your case? How did your client feel?

I felt relief and accomplishment. It was the most satisfied that I have felt due to my job since I became a lawyer. My client was relieved, but also extremely grateful. He repeatedly thanked me for all of my efforts.

What advice would you give to a lawyer considering taking a case from Esperanza?

FIRST, don't be afraid to ask the Esperanza attorneys and staff for assistance. They have been a fantastic resource, and they are extremely knowledgeable about the process. I also found them willing to help, even when I had the most simple questions. SECOND, understand that the process is very slow. I didn't quite understand how lengthy of a commitment that it would be (even though most months required no or minimal work). Had the asylum application been denied in April 2019 rather than approved, my client probably wouldn't have a resolution for at least another year based on the schedule at the immigration court. This would have made it almost a three-year commitment.

What was the most challenging aspect of your pro bono case?

The most challenging aspect was that I usually work with business clients that are responsive and have access to technology. This makes things such as signing documents quick and easy since it can be done digitally. Working with my client was different because he did not have access to these things.

What did you learn from your experience taking a pro bono case?

I learned how long and difficult the asylum process is. I was thinking about it frequently, so I cannot imagine trying to do it on your own.

Why is Esperanza’s mission important to you?

The clients are in direct need of legal assistance. My client arrived from a country with a much different legal system as a child. There was no way for him to navigate the US immigration system on his own. It is essential that organizations are there to support people.

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