This summer, Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc. (SALA) has been pleased to welcome rising second year law student, Paige Ricks, as our first David A. Paige Law Clerk for the Immigration Unit. The David A. Paige Foundation has graciously funded her full-time position for ten weeks. She started June 1st and immediately jumped in to help the immigration unit: Staff Attorney Mary Day, BIA-Accredited Representative/Senior Paralegal Yolanda Figueroa, and Paralegal Maria Espinoza.
David A. Paige Foundation
Mr. David A. Paige gave Arizona his incredible legacy of excellence in lawyering, commitment to his community, mentoring, and passion for volunteering. His family has established the David A. Paige Clerkship in his memory and to carry on his legacy. Mr. Paige grew up on the west side of Phoenix and came to law school at the University of Arizona in 1972, an experience that “transformed him,” according to his family. He spent thirty-five years practicing law and mentoring other lawyers and future judges in Tucson. His volunteer work with a soup kitchen and with Haitian refugees left him with a commitment to serving those in need and with a sense of the importance of access to civil legal aid. It is our hope that this opportunity will similarly transform those law students who serve clients in this grant-funded position at SALA.
SALA Immigration Unit
Since the early 1980s, SALA has been the only federally funded legal aid organization in Arizona providing immigration legal services to undocumented immigrants. In other words, SALA is one of the only options for low-income non-detained individuals to receive free legal representation with immigration law.
SALA assists victims of crime, primarily domestic violence and sexual assault, with obtaining immigration status and work authorization. Immigrants without legal status are among the most vulnerable of those impacted by domestic and sexual violence, because their immigration status makes them fearful of seeking protection from authorities. This highly vulnerable population is further isolated by language and cultural barriers, lack of knowledge of legal rights, and lack of access to legal employment.
Access to immigration legal services enables victims to understand their rights and seek legal protection and benefits through VAWA and U visa petitions and related immigration applications. Additionally, the Immigration Unit provides advice to SALA clients on whether or not filing for divorce might impact their immigration status.
David A Paige Law Clerk for Summer 2021
Paige Ricks completed 105 hours in June since she started working with SALA. She has been helping to prepare U-visa and VAWA petitions for filing with USCIS, preparing packets to renew EAD (work authorization) permits, meeting with clients, helping clients write statements to support their petitions, and researching unusual immigration issues that come up. She has been given an entire VAWA case to work on so she is gathering documents/evidence, meeting with the client, helping her draft a statement in support of the petition, and she will be completing the USCIS forms with her.
Paige says she is starting to understand how the different pieces of the process work together. She hopes by the end of her experience to have a more global understanding of the U-visa/VAWA processes from start to finish. She points out the kind of legal writing she’s been doing involves tailoring immigration legalese into a document that a layperson could read and understand. She has assisted the Managing Attorney with some basic pleadings for EOIR court to withdraw from the case after dismissal of the case was granted and this has brought her some experience with EOIR procedure.
In the future, Paige will continue working on the VAWA application to completion, she will continue learning about U-visa applications, handling interesting legal research as it comes up, and she will be working on an I-290B motion to reopen a case a few years after it was closed. This will require technical research and writing.
Just like Mr. Paige, Paige Ricks grew up in the Phoenix area in Arizona. She is the second youngest of nine children and is very close with all her family, most of whom still reside in Arizona. Paige moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona for undergraduate studies, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Linguistics. She met her husband Joseph there, when they started running together.
After graduating, Paige jumped straight into social work, at COPE Community Services. She first worked with people with Serious Mental Illness who were court-ordered to involuntary treatment. She says it was the hardest job she ever had. She moved on to be a Substance Abuse Case Worker which set her up to be able to help families who struggled with substance abuse in her future work. When she moved to Utah with her husband so he could attend law school, she started working for the State of Utah as a Deputy Probation Officer in the Juvenile Justice Services system. She loved working with teenagers and had a caseload of “ungovernable” teenagers. When she moved a year later to the Division of Child and Family Services, she enjoyed working with the whole family to provide treatment and parenting skills. Paige thinks her prior social work background has been very helpful in this internship.
Paige worked for a year after giving birth to her first child, Benjamin, before she became a full-time stay-at-home mother. Benjamin is now seven, and she also now has daughter Catherine, six years, and Daniel, age four. Additionally, the family has a big fluffy Pyrenees Poodle mix dog named Coco who is sweet and gentle with the kids.
Paige and her family moved to Tucson in 2015. She plays classical piano to relax (she particularly enjoys Beethoven), racquetball, and she enjoys reading memoirs, which speaks to her interest in psychology and how people think. She had been a civics teacher in Utah just prior to moving to Tucson and she had gained some introduction to immigrants in America. As Paige was following current events and looking for how she could get involved, seeing events at the border, she learned that many organizations needed legal services. That led her to be inspired to go to law school.
Paige attends David A. Paige’s alma mater, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. She is exploring her options and looking forward to experiencing the Worker’s Rights Clinic and possibly the Family Law Clinic. Her interests right now are immigration law, wills and trusts, family law, and bankruptcy. Paige expects to graduate with her Juris Doctor in May 2023 and to take the February 2023 bar exam in Arizona. She will be the first lawyer in her family. Coming from a blue collar ranching family with roots in Arizona for some five or six prior generations, Paige is immensely grateful for this clerkship position because she would not be able to afford the child care needed to work for free during the summer. This opportunity is so generous for budding first generation lawyers who would not otherwise be able to gain the practical experience in order to use the law to assist their community.
SALA echoes Paige’s gratitude because she has been such an asset these past four weeks already for our wonderful clients!