Student Reflects on her time with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Tanika Vigil, J.D. '14

Tanika Vigil, J.D. ’14

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Tanika Vigil chose to attend law school after working as a legal assistant at a small immigration law firm in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Once she was at Harvard Law, she spent much time working with the Harvard Immigration Project (HIP).

So, what are Tanika’s future plans? She has accepted a 2-year fellowship with the Immigrant Justice Corps in New York City! We were curious about how her time spent with HIP helped her get to where she is now, so we asked her a few questions:

Q: Do you have any memories you would like to share from your time with HIP?

A: My most salient memories from HIP are those in which a group of students came together in joint advocacy of a client. We had many late nights with members of the Bond Hearing Project mooting arguments and reviewing personal statements. We had many long days waiting to access clients and potential clients at detention facilities. And we had many exciting mornings at immigration court ready to present our client’s bond hearing case in front of Judge Day. In each of these moments the amount of time and energy that students dedicated to their clients and to each other was truly stunning.

Q: What do you think the biggest learning experiences were?

A: What I have learned most from HIP is that students have the potential to be dynamic, influential, and powerful advocates. The very existence of HIP–and its developing from a policy and interest group to a Student Practice Organization with the capacity to represent clients–speaks to the potential for student vision and motivation to have a very real practical impact on the ground for clients in need.

Q: How did your time with HIP help you to grow personally/professionally and what did you like about it?

A: HIP affirmed my commitment to engaging in direct client work post-law school and helped me begin to develop the skills necessary to do so starting with my first semester of law school. As a member of the Bond Hearing Project I was able to work on client interviewing, issue spotting, legal writing, oral advocacy, and legal strategy. I was also able to learn about legal procedure, working with and accessing clients in detention facilities, and collaborating with family and community members in pursuit of a client’s goal. While I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to develop these skills as a student, my favorite part of HIP was having the opportunity to do so alongside and with the help of fellow students and our clinical instructor, Phil Torrey.

Q: Did your time with HIP influence your post-grad plans and what are your post-grad plans?

A: My work with HIP 100% influenced my post-graduation plans. Over the past three years with HIP I have learned more about the injustices and inequalities and inequities that the immigration community faces. I have also learned that a group of committed lawyers, working alongside those communities, has the potential to make positive change. For those reasons I have accepted a two-year fellowship post-graduation with the Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) in New York City. As a fellow with the IJC I will work as an advocate for the most vulnerable members of the immigrant community–those facing detention and deportation.

Q: What are the long-term goals you anticipate in the coming years?

A: In the long-term I hope to give back to the law school experience that has given so much to me by pursuing work in clinical legal education. We need more HIPs in the world and we need more robust and dynamic opportunities for law students across the country to learn by developing practical skills and engaging with real legal challenges.

Thank you and Congratulations Tanika! We wish you the best of luck in New York City!

UP NEXT: Ryan Kurtz talks to us about his time at HIRC and his post-grad plans!