It is hard to believe that The Clinic at Sharma-Crawford, or simply, The Clinic as it is often called, is almost four years old. Still without adequate funding, it continues to survive–even thrive–because of the dedication and perseverance of a small group of people who simply won’t give up. At the head of that pack is The Clinic’s attorney, Genevra W. Alberti. Genevra and The Clinic have grown together. As The Clinic turns four, it seemed fitting to place the spotlight light on the legal eagle at its helm with a little one on one time.
Q: Genevra, so, how long have you been with the Clinic?
GWA: I have been employed by The Clinic since it first opened in January 2012. However, I got involved even before that – in November 2011 – when I started helping prepare for The Clinic’s grand opening.
Q: Did you always want to do nonprofit work?
GWA: Not necessarily, but I have always been interested in immigration law, and this opportunity came along at the perfect time.
Q: What is the hardest thing about your job?
GWA: Sometimes the law makes it impossible for me to help good people stay in the United States with their families. It’s very frustrating.
Q: What is the best?
GWA: Being able to give a voice to those who would not otherwise be able to afford legal representation in their immigration cases. Immigration law is an extremely complex animal, so having competent legal representation is crucial. There are no other non-profits in our area who focus on removal defense – and there is also no such thing as court-appointed attorneys in removal proceedings – so we provide a much-needed service.
Q: Do you have one “most memorable case”? What made it special?
GWA: There are several that come to mind. One in particular was a woman who was trapped in immigration custody for a year. She is a devoted mother to three US citizen children, who has been living in this country since she herself was a child. Unfortunately, her childhood was not a happy one; she did not have loving parents and she suffered a lot of abuse. The trauma from her childhood made it that much more difficult for her to withstand a year in immigration custody in a small county jail. It was clear to me, however, that she was determined to make sure her kids did not suffer the same pain she had as a child, and she refused to give up on her case for their sakes. Thankfully, once she was able to open up to us, we were able to identify a way to help her remain in the U.S. permanently. We then got her removal proceedings terminated, and she was finally released from immigration custody and reunited with her husband and children. It was a happy ending for a very deserving family.
Q: How many cases does the Clinic handle at any given point?
GWA: We currently have 129 active clients, and we usually tend to have between 130 and 140 open cases at a given time.
Q: How many cases has The Clinic handled since it opened? How many wins/losses?
GWA: Since the Clinic opened in January 2012, we have represented just under 400 people – from 32 different countries – in their removal proceedings. To date, we have handled 33 trials, of which we have won 26, lost 4, and are still waiting for a decision in 3.
Q: If you had one piece of advice to give a Clinic client, what would it be?
GWA: Work with your attorney – stay in touch, do what the attorney asks you to do, and be honest!
Q: What do you think would surprise people most about those folks who are Clinic clients?
GWA: A lot of our clients – and indeed a lot of noncitizens here in the US generally – are hard workers who pay their taxes and contribute to their communities here. Many of them are just trying to do the right thing for their families.
Q: If you could change one thing about the US immigration laws, what would it be?
GWA: The entire immigration statute. But if I had to choose one specific thing, it would be the laws regarding immigration custody. Mandatory immigration custody should be done away with except in very extreme circumstances. It is inhumane, and yet the law requires it all too often. And noncitizens should not have the burden of proving why they should be given a bond; instead, the government should have the burden of proving why someone’s right to freedom should be disregarded.
It is Genevra’s dedication and passion in representation that ensures that those facing removal proceedings, even if they have limited means, will obtain competent, aggressive and honest representation. No one should have to face the complexities of removal defense alone. In Kansas City, they don’t have to.
Please support the work of The Clinic by making your tax-deductible donation at www.theclinickc.org. Every little bit makes a huge difference. Thank you for your support.