Students volunteer to help parents prepare in case of deportation

Man holds up a poster that says,
Photo Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Students will be volunteering in guardianship-caretaker clinics under Bet Tzedek and will learn to help undocumented parents figure out who will take care of their children if they are deported.

Bet Tzedek, which means House of Justice in hebrew, provides free legal services to the elderly, poor, disabled and Holocaust survivors. They hosted a training on campus for students to volunteer at these clinics.

Sandor Samuels, a professor and former CEO of Bet Tzedek, said this project will mainly focus on training students how to file paperwork for guardianship petitions for undocumented parents.

“The idea behind this project is that we would work with these families to identify a cousin, uncle, next door neighbor, someone who is here legally who could act as a guardian for their children if their parents are deported,” Samuels said.

According to Samuels, Bet Tzedek’s goal is to recognize families who are in fear of deportation. If a parent is deported, their minor children will be deemed abandoned and could be seized by the department of public social services. Samuels said if this happens they may be turned into the foster care system.

“That way their children won’t be abandoned and they could live with somebody that they know and trust,” Samuels said. “Also people who can make medical decisions for them and make educational decisions for them until things are sorted out with their families.”

Hilary Goldberg, a professor who teaches business law, came up with this idea with Samuels.

“There’s many different aspects that this is going to serve in terms of the students overall education and it’s great because it doesn’t require a semester-long internship,” Goldberg said. “We just have a wealth of skill sets on campus, we have this incredible diversity, language skills, we know we can go and have these translation services and relate to the people we need to help.”

According to Goldberg, anyone who gets trained is going to be working underneath the protection of Bet Tzedek and their guidance.

Bet Tzedek’s Vice President of Pro Bono Diego Cartagena, hosted the first workshop here at CSUN and trained students. The training was two hours long and students may be able to attend more workshops soon.

Marvel Zhigalin, a student majoring in political science who attended the first workshop, said students who volunteer to assist undocumented parents would be supervised by Bet Tzedek’s assistant attorneys. The students will hear a client’s situation and give them advice based on their situation. In addition, Zhigalin said she looks forward to volunteering at one of the clinics because she has no experience in this type of work.

“I’m excited to get involved in something more meaningful, especially because of what’s going on, and the political climate,” Zhigalin said .”People just don’t know what is going on.”