Monday, October 26, 2015

Immigration Article of the Day: In Pursuit of Calmer Waters: Managing the Impact of Trauma Exposure on Immigration Adjudicators by Kate Aschenbrenner


In Pursuit of Calmer Waters: Managing the Impact of Trauma Exposure on Immigration Adjudicators by Kate Aschenbrenner, Barry University School of Law May 1, 2015 Kansas Journal of Law & Pubic Policy, Vol. 24, p. 401, 2015

Abstract: A significant percentage of noncitizens in the United States are likely to experience trauma in some form. Like a pebble skipped across a pond, or a boulder dropped into a river, this trauma not only has an effect at the point of direct impact on those noncitizens but also creates a ripple effect that spreads out from that point to touch others that it encounters in its path. While our understanding of the ripple impact of trauma could benefit greatly from additional study, existing information allows us to conclude that it affects adjudicators in the immigration process, the process itself, and the noncitizens, attorneys, and others participating in it. Response to this trauma exposure is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and is not an entirely negative occurrence. It allows those exposed indirectly to empathize with primary victims and, if managed successfully, may be a source of strength and growth for an individual. However, it can also have profoundly negative consequences for individuals and systems. For immigration adjudicators, it may manifest as oversensitivity or insensitivity, irritability or anger, hyper-arousal, lack of patience, and difficulty concentrating. Such symptoms may inappropriately affect the outcome of immigration proceedings and certainly affect the experience of noncitizens and attorneys appearing before these adjudicators.

This article considers the logical next question: What can and should be done about the impact that trauma exposure has on the immigration process? As the title of this article alludes, the goal is to move towards calmer waters, to reduce the intensity and the reach of the impact of trauma on those who experience it both directly and indirectly. Stated another way, it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate trauma exposure response in the immigration process. Instead, the objectives are twofold. First, we must persuade immigration adjudicators and their agencies that trauma exposure response is real and something that needs to be addressed. Second, the legal profession should explore reforms that would better manage trauma exposure response so as to have, at a minimum, a less negative impact on all participants in the immigration process.


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