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Gabby Camilleri Defends Immigrants Rights As A Summer Law Clerk At TCRP

I was in my sophomore year of college when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) was rescinded. At that moment, I became committed to defending the rights of immigrants and decided to pursue law school. Five years later, I am proud to have clerked at the Texas Civil Rights Project before entering my last year at the University of Texas School of Law. 

As a summer law clerk on the Beyond Borders team at TCRP, I had the opportunity to work on a variety of statewide and humanitarian projects protecting the civil rights of migrants and border communities. In particular, I helped gather information for counties that are part of Operation Lone Star (OLS), an illegal state scheme to arrest and prosecute people crossing the border under state criminal trespass law. Participating OLS counties have created a system of state immigration that targets Latinx migrants for prosecution and enhanced punishment. This shadow system is rife with civil rights violations and irregularities, particularly with the judicial assignment process and replacement of duly appointed judges. The state courts reassigned judges to process OLS trespass cases on dockets separate from ordinary county misdemeanor cases. In Kinney County, appointed visiting judges for OLS cases were replaced and seated by preferred replacements undermining the judiciary and exceeding authority.

I contacted local county officials to gather the identity of judges and prosecutors assigned to OLS. As I documented this information, I learned that Texas counties along the border were either hostile, unaware, or gladly willing to share information regarding OLS. Nevertheless, as more counties begin to expand this illegal system, they target Black and Brown migrants for arrest and perpetuate a dangerous and hostile anti-immigrant environment in Texas.

Image: (left to right) Staff Attorney Zach Dolling, Beyond Borders Fellow Chelsea Alatriste, Senior Staff Attorney James Slattery, Manne Family Fellow Kassandra Gonzalez, Summer Clerk Gabby Camilleri, and Beyond Borders Outreach Coordinator Roberto Lopez.

I also had the privilege to observe TCRP engage in community lawyering, a community-based legal approach that helps resolve community-identified issues by building coalitions, empowering community members, and conducting trainings. The Beyond Borders team held weekly listening sessions with various partners in South Texas to involve them in the legal process and support their needs. Through community lawyering, we listened to communities identify systemic issues that the team could address and potentially integrate in their legal work. It was such a valuable experience to be involved in the process of building collaborative relationships and sharing power with communities we directly serve.

This clerkship has reaffirmed my commitment to pursuing public interest and immigration law. The Beyond Borders team has given me invaluable insights on immigration and civil rights issues and truly represent passionate, dedicated, and diligent attorneys. Thanks to their guidance and support, I feel empowered to become a successful future attorney that effectively advocates for immigration rights and social justice.

You can contribute here so that TCRP can continue to provide opportunities like these to rising law students.

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