Published on February 19, 2018
When Benjamin Saper was working as an associate at a large New York law firm, he took on his first unaccompanied minor asylum case and he was instantly hooked. “The ability to work with my client to adjust to the U.S. in the context of his past trauma, while also helping him win his asylum case, was extremely rewarding,” Saper said of that first case.
When Saper moved to New Orleans in 2015, he knew he wanted to continue representing unaccompanied minors. He already had a full time job, but he wanted to do what he could to help. Luckily, Catholic Charities’ Immigration Services was willing and able to assign him pro bono asylum cases.
“I found through my pro bono cases that fighting for the most vulnerable in society gave my work the most meaning,” he shared.
Saper had always envisioned himself transitioning to a public-interest immigration law career and Catholic Charities’ Immigration Services was in need of an immigration attorney with the Unaccompanied Minors program. The opportunity was too good to pass up.
Saper loves the thrill of going before a judge to present a client’s story, but his favorite part of the job is the simple joy of getting to know his clients. “Sitting down with a client in my office, making a human connection, gaining their trust and working with them on a winning legal strategy has been the highlight so far,” he says of his job with Catholic Charities.
He believes that his unaccompanied minor clients are some of the most resilient people he’s met. Most have suffered tremendous abuse and trauma in their young lives, but they beam from ear to ear when Saper asks about their favorite classes, their best friends in the U.S. or their taste in music.
“These are kids that, despite everything they have been through, beam when talking about their role as Spanish-English translator in gym class, their dreams of becoming teachers, doctors or YouTube stars in the future and their upcoming soccer games or dance performances,” he says of his clients.
Saper says that when talking about immigrants, especially children like his clients, it’s important to not just focus on their traumatic past but on the possibility for an amazing future, because that’s what his clients are focused on themselves.