By: Wendy Rhein
I am not an overly exuberant person as my CLINIC colleagues will attest, but CLINIC’s 14th annual Convening blew me away. Held May 14-16 in Seattle, Washington, this gathering of almost 300 non profit immigration service professionals was engaging, personal and productive. I have been at CLINIC for less than a year, so this was my first opportunity to attend this conference. After 20 years in non profit management, I have grown to expect that some conferences are more about the location than about the skills and opportunities gained by attending. Don’t get me wrong, Seattle was beautiful! Nary a raindrop for 4 consecutive days, wonderful restaurants and parks near to our hotel, and a beautiful Puget Sound view all rounded out the excitement of the location. But the true purpose of being there, for all 38 CLINIC staff who made the trek to Seattle, was the attendees – members of our 207 network agencies who work with indigent and vulnerable immigrants in desperate need of immigration legal services, each and every day.
From the start of the plenary, hosted by Maria M. Odom, CLINIC’s executive director, I knew I was in for something special. We had the true pleasure of hearing remarks by Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and we were honored that he chose to engage in a true dialogue with our participants from around the country. During the same opening plenary, CLINIC was awarded with a Centennial Medal from Catholic Charities USA for its commitment to reducing the impacts of poverty. What an opening!
During the following two days, I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the advocates who attended, and heard their praise of CLINIC and its commitment to being of service to them as they work tirelessly to be of service to others. I was humbled by stories of their struggles with fewer resources, more clients, and in some cases an increasingly hateful public opinion about immigrant and immigration in their communities. They told me how much they looked forward to this annual Convening to meet with their peers, to have time to reflect on their work, and to learn the latest developments in the ever-changing field of immigration law that may make the difference for a client in need of relief.
CLINIC staff and board hosted 32 sessions during the two days. While the expertise and talent of the staff never ceases to impress me, I was truly honored to be there with those who came to learn and to engage because their work and experience is what motivates us every day to continue to provide top notched legal training, organizational management support, legal services for religious workers and administrative advocacy for our network - I’m already looking forward to the 2012 Convening. See you in Austin, Texas!
For more pictures from our annual convening, check out our Facebook page!
Ms. Rhein is the Director of Advancement, Marketing & Communications at CLINIC