One Morning in Charlotte Immigration Court’s Pro Bono Room

The line starts around 10:30, after people have made their initial appearance in court. They come in, one or two at a time, to discuss their specific circumstances and inquire about next steps. Some clients are from Venezeula; some are from Mexico; one American woman comes in with a man from Haiti. Everyone seems to have a manila folder with a stack of papers to go through. Many conversations are had, along with a few tears. Lots of back and forth—usually calm and occasionally elevated. Frustration is coming through, and patience is needed. 

Most of the questions revolve around terminology, paperwork and next steps. It’s hard to move forward in the process when unfamiliar terms are thrown at you with no explanation. Plus, many documents are only shared in English. As for the next steps, that depends on where everyone is in the process. 

The advice to most: you need a lawyer to be successful. Most leave with additional paperwork: address change forms, lists of immigration lawyers, etc. If children come in with their parents, they also receive a page of stickers. 

It is a time fraught with a lot of unknown variables. Our pro bono services are there to help people understand what is happening, along with determining the next steps to move forward successfully with their lives in a new country. 

Advocacy Center hours in the Pro Bono Room are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. The Charlotte Immigration Court is located at 5701 Executive Center Drive, Charlotte, NC on the fourth floor.