Roodelyne Davilmar with Melissa Swain
Roodelyne Davilmar never wanted to practice immigration law. The Miami native never wanted to work for the government. So, like in every good Hollywood script, the kind of shy, kind of intimidating 26-year-old currently is interning at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, applying federal regulations, case law, and agency policies and procedures to the thousands of cases that pass through the offices annually.
Furthermore, at almost a dozen of the citizenship ceremonies, Davilmar has announced the list of countries – where the applicants stand to be recognized by homeland.
“It’s such a long journey for people to get to that day,” she says. “Not everyone gets that opportunity. I always get a little emotional."
Starting in her 2L year, Davilmar has worked at the Miami Law Health Rights Clinic, first as a student legal intern and now as a supervising fellow. One of her early cases was helping an undocumented 4-year-old achieve dependency and immigration status, so she could attend public school.
"It was that case that catapulted me into focusing on immigration law," she says. "This little girl had been smuggled into the U.S. as a 9-month-old, held for ransom, and was now being denied an education. She just needed a chance."
And Davilmar understands opportunity. The Haitian Lawyers Association recently awarded her with a scholarship. The prestigious award is awarded annually to four exemplary law students of Haitian descent who have served the Haitian community.
The Barry University grad did not start thinking about law school until after her undergraduate career. She had always imagined that she would become a teacher, like her father, who teaches math. She spent a year in Spain teaching English, and adding Spanish to English and Creole to her "fluent in" languages list; she speaks French conversationally as well. She enjoyed the experience but decided teaching was something that might be a useful fall back. She wanted to give the law a try.
Her appetite was whetted while pursuing her degree in criminology, and a turn interning as a victim witness counselor at the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney. But once she locked on to law school, she never looked farther than Miami Law.
"The small class sizes attracted me," she said. "The professors were accessible, and you could develop a rapport. And the school has a nationwide reputation for excellence."
The Health Rights Clinic has become a keystone for the third-year student. She went to the University of Strathclyde in Scotland as a clinic exchange student, and interned at Americans for Immigrant Justice, representing immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, violent crime, and human trafficking.
“Roodelyne has been a tremendous asset at the clinic,” said JoNel Newman, professor of clinical education and director of the Health Rights Clinic. “Her wonderful language skills and cultural competency have allowed her to form strong connections with her clients. She is also a talented and passionate advocate. She will make a wonderful contribution to the practice of law.”
Davilmar could see herself staying on at USCIS, "but I have learned to let opportunity come to me," she says. "What is the proverb? Man plans, God laughs? So we will see."