Trauma Informed Care and Legal Advocacy

At Immigrants First, we have extensive experience and training in trauma informed care, including training other lawyers on responding to client trauma and secondary trauma self-care. Many immigration clients have experienced trauma as a result of different life experiences in their home countries, crossing the border, being a victim of violence, abuse and/or crime, poverty, lack of cultural familiarity and language, re-integration with family, and instability/insecurity.

When a person experiences trauma it can cause a variety of symptoms that impact how he or she functions in life and especially through the course of an immigration case. Symptoms include: foggy memory, flashbacks, nightmares, problems eating, sleeping or having relationships, trust, startle responses, hypersensitivity, hyperawareness, avoidance, depression and anxiety, and inability to cope with life, among other things. When constructing an immigration case, trauma can cause great difficulties in that a client may not want to obtain documentation, may avoid taking actions or answering questions, may be forgetful or even hostile, or create an inconsistent story.

Helping Immigrants Tell Their Stories

We understand trauma and its impact. And, we can assist a client in telling the story while minimizing triggers that cause a person to re-experience the initial trauma. We are sensitive to the environment and how we question. We take breaks, allowing the client to free-flow the story, and hold space for silence when it is needed. When trauma surfaces, we assist clients in managing it through grounding techniques, and we ensure that before a client leaves our offices that he or she is re-centered and able to cope with what was discussed in the interview process.

We also understand that trauma can impact the credibility of a case because of memory loss and avoidance. We get experts on board to handle evaluations where a client is particular affected by trauma, and we spend the time needed to capture a story and clarify details where there may be inconsistencies due to memory loss, flashbacks and other trauma symptoms. We successfully make legal arguments about how trauma impacts brain functioning at all ages, which can explain certain behaviors, inconsistencies or missing a filing deadline for asylum.

Helping Immigrants to Win Their Cases — and to Heal

Our skills at handling trauma and deep understanding of how trauma impacts the brain and body help us win client cases. It also creates a sense of healing and expression for clients where there may have been no pathway for that expression previously. We get beyond the trauma through our experience and use of experts to present the best and most persuasive case with consistent detail. Before a hearing or USCIS interview, we extensively prepare a client for questioning and, if needed, will ask a judge for special accommodation for clients with psychological issues of any kind. In addition to assisting the legal case, clients report a general overall relief that they were really able to communicate and have someone who cares listen to them.

Learn more about our team and our immigration services.