“The call to gospel justice is what animates my call to serve as a lawyer,” says Deirdre Griffin ’99, SSJ. As a Sister of Saint Joseph and the Boston-raised eldest child of Irish immigrant parents, service to immigrants and refugees has been her focus ever since she was among the first students at BC Law to take part in Professor Daniel Kanstroom’s Immigration and Asylum Clinic.
Since January 2022, Griffin has been in ministry with Maryknoll Lay Missioners at the US/Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, providing pro bono immigration legal services to migrants seeking safety in the United States. She often uses the phrase “the radical hospitality of God,” to encapsulate the “active, inclusive love and respect for human dignity” that drive her mission.
Working with two local organizations, Annunciation House, a network of shelters, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Griffin identifies people with strong claims to asylum who struggle to find legal representation, either because they speak only Indigenous languages, or identify as LGBTQ+. Others may be eligible for special visas available to some victims of crime or human trafficking. “With those scenarios, we can make a big difference in someone’s longer term success in the immigration system if we can get them off to a good start from here,” says Griffin.
“In the midst of trauma, there are joyful moments,” Griffin acknowledges. She remembers the relief of welcoming busloads of exhausted refugees from violence in Venezuela. Simply offering them a place to sit down, bottles of water, and cutting off the colored ID wristbands used in the government detention centers where they had been held, felt like a momentary victory for humanitarian values. “We’re in constant need of resources and attorneys,” she says. “I am here because I refuse to be paralyzed by the political polarization in our country.”