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My Internship Capstone

Throughout my two months at Sas & Ing I was able to work closely with an Albanian client who is tried to sponsor his wife to come to Canada. Although they are married, and have been for nearly 5 years, they are rarely in the same country. While the wife lives in Albania and cares for their family farm, the husband works in construction as a permanent resident in Canada. Now, after many years of trying, they are appealing to be able to sponsor the wife to join her husband in Canada.

About 5 weeks into my internship, I began working with this couple. In preparation for their hearing, I helped our lawyer devise questions that would be able to paint the picture of their many attempts to reunite in Canada for the immigration officer. During the process of this sponsorship application, there is a hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the relationship or marriage of the couple in question is genuine, or whether it was entered into for the purpose of an immigration advantage. This is because it is much easier to immigrate to Canada if you have a relative who is already a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. This is called “sponsorship” – when a Canadian relative (parent, grandparent, sibling, child, or spouse) helps a citizen of another country to immigrate to Canada. Because Canada is an attractive country to move to, some people enter into inauthentic relationships to help them come to Canada more easily. They sometimes go to the extent to pay for sham weddings to appear as if they are actually married. So the purpose of these hearings is to essentially question the applicant and sponsor in order to test the consistency of every detail of their relationship and determine whether they are truly in a genuine relationship.

Now, there are two types of questioning that the applicant and sponsor will have to undergo during this hearing. The first is direct examination, during which his legal counsel will be able to question him about his situation using open ended questions. The purpose of this questioning is to paint a picture of his circumstances for the immigration officer and board member. These questions cannot be pointed or obviously searching for a particular response, they will have cues in them in order to trigger the memory of the person testifying. This is because typically the legal counsel practices these questions with their client prior to the hearing, and these cues will remind the client what they already fleshed out beforehand.

The second type of examination is cross-examination. These are questions that the immigration officer or board member will pose to the applicant and sponsor, and they are permitted to be pointed, direct questions that are used to determine whether the clients are misrepresenting (lying) about their relationship. These questions can be difficult to answer and have no restrictions on their subject matter. That is why, for the past several weeks, I have been able to work through some of our own questions with our client and his wife in Albania through a translator. This has been fulfilling work – seeing both of them improve so drastically and become more confident in their ability to answer these questions. The hearing, which serves as the capstone to my internship, is on Tuesday. I will observe it and hopefully come out of 3 hours of questioning with a success story for this client and a fitting capstone to my internship at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre.

Halfway There

Coincidentally, the halfway mark of my internship at a Canadian Immigration Law Centre fell on July 1st – Canada Day. It marked Canada’s 151st birthday as a nation, even though most Canadians recognize that people lived on this land long before the concept of Canada was even conceived. Even citizens of European descent are descendants of immigrants, so working at an immigration law firm on this day was serendipitous at the least. This holiday served as an opportune moment to reflect on everything that I had learned at Sas & Ing so far and celebrate everything that makes Canada what it is. Over 300,000 people immigrate into Canada each year, and in a country of only 37 million people, you can imagine that embracing diversity and facilitating international cooperation play large roles in the continuation of a culturally, ethnically, and intellectually diverse population.

As the heartbreaking Mexican border situation afflicting the people trying to immigrate to our neighbours to the south persists, I sit in my office 30 minutes away from a different border with the same country. My immersion in an office that focuses on bringing people into the country has created cognitive distance to the situation at the Mexican border. My experiences here make it hard to believe that such a situation could exist as we are working long and hard hours to facilitate immigration in an efficient way.

I believe that the importance of immigration in creating a robust and comprehensive public cannot be stressed enough. The halfway mark of my internship at Sas & Ing fell on a day that I could reflect on the fact that although immigration law can be tedious at times, it is essential to the well-being of our country.

Rules to Survive By

In the office of the Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre, many of the responsibilities in the office are shared between lawyers, paralegals, and administrative assistants. Irrespective of a team member’s position or status, three rules circulate daily in the office. These presiding rules are ones to live by, or perhaps more accurately, rules to survive by at Sas & Ing, and any professional workplace for that matter.

 

“Criteria and Evidence”

Although this first rule concerns the legal work Catherine Sas, Q.C. and her team does, it can be applied to other fields as well. This phrase encapsulates the need for both the basic requirements that any immigration application must meet, plus the additional evidence supporting why someone should be allowed to immigrate to Canada. It is not sufficient to fill out forms and hope that an immigration officer allows your client into the country. You have to approach each case from an angle and use evidence to convince the officer that your client not only meets, but exceeds the criteria to enter. This can be applied to problem solving of any variety. In order to give yourself the highest chances of success, you must meet the basic requirements and provide the most compelling supporting evidence for the best outcome.

 

“Be Resourceful”

This phrase is reiterated at every roadblock or question asked, it serves as the unspoken mantra of the firm – always in the back of everyone’s minds, slowly being drilled into manifestation. It may be something of a workplace cliché, but the employees and employers who embody resourcefulness tend to be skilled at their craft, and valuable team members. The key to resourcefulness is to seek out any alternative avenues before resigning yourself to the task at hand and deferring to a supervisor.

 

“Take Initiative, but Know Your Limits”

Employers hire employees to delegate tasks to and simplify their professional lives – they simply can’t afford the time it takes to manage all the tasks required to run a firm. Furthermore, employees are hired only if they’re deemed qualified in the first place. Therefore, an inherent degree of trust exists between employer and employee – they want you to take initiative because your purpose is to replace the need to micromanage all the responsibilities of the office. However, this trust does have its limits. If employees are out of their depth and complete something wrong, it reflects poorly on the employer. If you know a task lies above your qualifications, don’t be afraid to say so and seek help from coworkers or supervisors. Being self-aware of your capabilities and limits only makes you a more valuable employee.

Week One

A Brief Introduction

Hi there! My name is Silke and I’m a sophomore International Studies major at Dickinson College. This summer I have the privilege of working under two of Vancouver’s top immigration lawyers, Catherine Sas Q.C. and Victor Ing, in an internship and shadowing experience. I’ll have the opportunity to interact with legal professionals and clients, and hopefully emerge from the experience with a thorough sense of the man challenges and successes immigration lawyers undergo.

***

Unexpected Beginnings

The Vancouver Harbour Centre sits just blocks away from the Vancouver Harbour which extends from the Pacific Ocean into the heart of the downtown area. I looked up at the towering building with baited breath, a full half-hour early to my first day on the job. While my courage built and the uneasiness subsided, I stepped into what would be a whirlwind of a first week at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre.

At a time when the national and international discourse around immigration has become highly divisive, interning at an immigration law firm is at least a timely endeavour if not an enriching lesson in the importance of cultural and national diversity. In our globalized world, it is imperative that we recognize the similarities that unite us. Modern technologies connect us in more ways than ever before, and because of this, it is necessary we understand the attributes that tie us together – and even more than specific characteristics, on a foundational level, our shared humanity. After only a week at this immigration law firm, I witnessed both the most noble and most vulnerable aspects of this humanity in the pursuit of giving strangers a better life.

After making my way to the 17th floor, I entered the Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre. I stepped into a polished and professional office space to find six employees all diligently working to bring people to Canada and keep them here. I was introduced to the team and situated at my place in the office. It wasn’t even 15 minutes before one of the lawyers came into the office and, on the fly, asked me to accompany her to a detention review of a client at risk of being deported. I was able to witness the review and meet the client’s wife and brother who were waiting in anticipation for the decision. I was there for the moment that they found out that Catherine Sas Q.C. got the detainee acquitted and witnessed their joy in knowing that he would be reunited with his children and family.

The following day, I was invited to attend a federal court hearing. The case dealt with what the presiding lawyer, Victor Ing, calls one of the most punitive provisions of Canadian immigration law, Section 117(9)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Canadian law declares that foreign nationals who are married to current Canadian citizens can be sponsored by their spouse to immigrate to Canada. However, Section 117(9)(d) dictates that if the foreign national was not identified as a family member or spouse of the immigrant at the time of their application, there is a lifelong sponsorship ban on that family member. Although this affects all immigrants, it disproportionately penalizes refugees and vulnerable populations who fail to identify family for a vast number of reasons, namely a fear of their family member facing persecution in their home country. During the hearing, I was able to sit next to the present family members and witness the two lawyers debate whether the Canadian government should allow a Filipino immigrant (now a permanent resident) to sponsor her husband to also immigrate on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

This hearing was a valuable experience to witness the direct implications of immigration law and how the regulations decided by as elevated and distant a body as parliament can influence the day to day lives of Canadians, as well as how Canadian laws can shape the lives of non-Canadians. Attending this hearing provided insight into the workings of the legal system, as well as the bureaucracy, politics, and nuances that accompany it.

Law was never something that I truly considered before entering post-secondary. Even as an international studies major, it was only after taking a human rights and global inequality class in my sophomore year that a future in law came into my field of vision. I could not have predicted how only one day in the office of Vancouver’s top immigration law firm could thrust me into the fast-paced, often tempestuous, always captivating, and invariably rewarding world of immigration law in one of Canada’s most diverse cities.

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