A little over a year ago, I was working in Chicago, representing a detained client in a hearing at the Immigration Court. The judge was not accepting my position on the case. As she was about to deny my client the relief he was seeking, I gently interrupted the judge and pleaded with her, interjecting an argument in the middle of her decision.
She paused, listened, then paused again, appearing conflicted. At that moment, she retracted her oral decision and decided to take a week to think about it. Everyone in the courtroom was shocked at the turn of events. I, myself, could not believe it. I think about that moment often and what led me to have enough confidence to stand my ground, my position, my conviction before a powerful judge. Reflecting upon what propelled me to that point I think of Catholic Charities – Hogar Immigrant Services. I would not have had such confidence to argue for my client had it not been for my experience as an attorney at Hogar Immigrant Services two years earlier.
My journey with Hogar Immigrant Services started back in 2015, when, after several years of practicing law in the private sector, I decided to follow my dreams of becoming a non-profit immigration lawyer. I chose to undertake that path at Catholic Charities. Hogar gave me my first opportunity as a non-profit lawyer, and to date this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. So much so, that when I had to temporarily relocate to Chicago for family reasons in 2017, I had a hard time leaving my position and relocating. But eventually I left, and I began representing detained immigrants on behalf of the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), a Chicago-based non-profit organization, from 2017 through 2019.
As part of the Detention Project at NIJC, I represented detained non-citizens of various backgrounds, including newly arrived undocumented individuals, undocumented individuals who have lived and worked in the United States for years, long-term lawful permanent residents, and asylum seekers who have been harmed/tortured or who fear harm/torture in their countries of origin, among others.
I could not have taken full advantage of this great opportunity had I not worked at Catholic Charities. Hogar instilled and continues to instill in me three key attributes that I am forever grateful for: (1) skills interacting with clients; (2) problem-solving skills to achieve favorable results for our clients and to take control of my own cases; (3) fulfilling the Catholic and Christian tradition of welcoming the stranger and helping those most unfortunate and forgotten in our society.
As such, when my family decided to return to the DC area late last year, I found myself wondering where my next career move would take me and I was delighted to come back to the organization that shaped who I am as a lawyer and as a person.
Pope Francis once said:
“Every human being is a child of God. He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”His Holiness Pope Francis
I hope to keep expanding upon these values, and for that reason I came back to my “hogar” (Spanish for “home”) of so many years as a lawyer – Catholic Charities’ Hogar Immigrant Services.
Learn more about Catholic Charities Hogar Immigrant Services – Legal, and all our Newcomer Services.
Jeanette Ynfante is a removal defense attorney at Hogar Immigrant Services – Legal.