Posted on: August 2, 2017
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As an asylum officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Slatton helped determine whether some of the world's most vulnerable people had the right to settle in the United States.
Now, she feared, she'd be expected to shut the door on far too many.
"I didn’t feel like my morals aligned with my old job anymore," she explains.
Stilwell proposed the idea — half-seriously — after discussions with her roommate, a non-citizen, who was worried about how members of her family would fare under the policies of the incoming administration.
"She basically told us, 'If you ever go into the immigration field, there’s a lot of people that could use you,'" Stilwell recalls.
With less than three post-law-school years between them, the partners gave themselves a crash course in running a business from scratch — setting up bookkeeping practices, planning a marketing strategy, and how to accept clients, which they began doing in April 2017.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Supreme Court's recent stay of the lower court decision pre-empting the ban, the pair are primarily advising those affected by it to be careful and stay up-to-date on the news to prepare for whatever happens next.
"With a lot of people, no matter how watered down the travel ban has gotten or where it is now, I think the fear is if the Supreme Court rules in Trump’s favor, it’s kind of like, ‘What is the next step?'" Stillwell explains.
After a series of early news reports on the new business, the pair say they received a raft of racist, graphic, violent emails, including some death threats.
"As white women, you’re not used to that sort of hatred and animosity and racism just being flung at you," Stilwell says. "To think that our clients and other people, other immigrants in the world, are going through that on a daily basis, it was shocking.”
Explaining their devotion to their work to their families, both report, has been an ongoing process involving many conversations and personal anecdotes about their clients to remind relatives that no two immigrant stories are the same.
Both feel they've made progress. Recently, Slatton's father relayed some of those stories to a group of his friends.
"Just to hear him defend not only me, but my clients, it was heartwarming," Slatton says.
The partners become most animated when talking about their successes — small and large — on behalf of their clients, like preparing a case for a man who was labor trafficked into the United States.
Or discovering that a recent assault victim suddenly qualified for a rock-solid humanitarian visa.
Or the veteran who they encouraged to apply for the green card he's owed.
"[It's] a lot of work, but really satisfying when you find a solution for them," Slatton says.
With each victory, they join the growing ranks of Americans who are making a difference by sticking their necks out for the most vulnerable — whether by making calls, sitting in their senators' offices, or starting a law firm.
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