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VOL. 125 | NO. 171 | Thursday, September 2, 2010

Triche Pays City’s Kindness Forward at Community Legal Center

SUSAN AGEE | Special to The Daily News

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Photo: Lance Murphey

When attorney Alicia Triche heard of a job opening at the Memphis Community Legal Center, she was quick to call and express her interest.

“I wanted to give something back to the city that had sheltered me during Hurricane Katrina,” she said.

Her previous stays in Memphis during hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, and a more recent visit during which she wrote a thesis, gave her contacts and enough of a taste of Memphis to want to return.

The Baton Rouge, La., native started as director of the center’s immigrant justice program on Aug. 9. A summer program at Oxford University in England during her second year of law school sparked Triche’s interest in immigration law.

“I was introduced to international refugee law there,” she said. “Its core tenet is protection to all peoples from political, racial and religious persecution. I was hooked.”

From that point, Triche’s academic focus was refugee law. The practical implication of her choice was to work in immigration defense.

Triche’s first job in the field was with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network in Oakdale, La. She stayed with that nonprofit group through 2001 and worked in both the Louisiana and Los Angeles offices.

Then she interrupted her practice to take a Fulbright scholarship to study again at Oxford University. She earned a master of studies in legal research there and is in the revision stages for a thesis that will give her the equivalent of a Ph.D. in the same field.

As the new director of the CLC’s immigrant justice program, Triche sees her primary duty as that of recruiting and training attorneys to take on the pro bono cases the program handles.

“My hope is that we will institute an annual training whereby aspiring immigration attorneys may learn the basics of removal court practice and sign up to take on our cases, all in one easy step,” Triche said.

“That day is coming. Just before I arrived, IJP conducted a legal education seminar on ‘U visas,’ which are available to certain victims of violent crime who subsequently cooperate with law enforcement investigations. I specialize in legal instruction of all varieties, so readers can expect to see IJP continue to expand in that direction.”

Triche added that the Memphis chapter of the Federal Bar Association holds an immigration law seminar every year in May and attorneys who volunteer with CLC can register for a discount.

Besides legal contacts, Triche has another connection to Memphis that made the city attractive to her. She was trained as a pianist in college, but picked up the guitar later and was part of an underground, semi-professional music scene during a stay in New Orleans.

That was just before Katrina hit the city. Triche and many musician friends evacuated to Memphis, and that’s when she was introduced to the Bluff City.

But it was another stay, this one to write her doctorate thesis, that convinced Triche the city had even more to offer than just shelter.

“I found that Memphis was a very inspiring city for a writer,” she said. “The people are so welcoming, the music so good and the aesthetics are so beautiful that I found myself able to write quite prolifically here.”

CLC director Meg Jones said the immigrant justice program was started in response to an appeal from immigration judges for legal assistance to immigrants who couldn’t afford an attorney, particularly those with U-visa claims and asylum requests.

Triche, who has her own “refugee” experiences found a home in Memphis. It’s now her job to help others find shelter in the city that has been such a friend to her.

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