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Kara Lynum traveled in August to Juarez, Mexico, helping asylum seekers fill out applications. (Submitted photo)
Kara Lynum traveled in August to Juarez, Mexico, helping asylum seekers fill out applications. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Crossing border to help asylum seekers

Name: Kara Lynum

Title: Immigration attorney, Lynum Law Office

Education: B.A., political science, University of Minnesota; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Kara Lynum’s latest volunteer efforts to assist asylum seekers have taken the immigration attorney from her St. Paul-based Lynum Law Office into Mexico.

Lynum and another attorney traveled in August to Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, helping 66 asylum seekers fill out applications.

“We were in one of the most dangerous cities in the world,” Lynum said. “The neighborhood was very poor.”

They worked in a shelter with inconsistent power and water service. The attorneys brought a copier, paper and pens for the paperwork and supplies for the shelter including hotplates, fans and cereal.

In December, Lynum and another attorney traveled to Tijuana to assist asylum seekers, who now must wait on the Mexican side to apply. She went south to U.S. family detention centers a number of times in 2014-2015 for the same purpose.

“It’s a week where I’m not earning money for the firm,” Lynum said of her volunteer trips. “But I view this as a human rights crisis. For immigration attorneys who have that skills set and can help, it’s important that they do that.”


Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I love animals. Telling me that it’s OK to pet your dog is a great way to start a conversation.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A: I wanted to help people with real-world problems and get them to a solution that helps them in their day-to-day life. I decided law would be a great way to do that. I’m the first person in my family to go to college.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: I just finished “Difficult Women” by Roxane Gay. I’m also rereading the Harry Potter books.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: People who are late to appointments.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: When a family gets to stay in the United States together or they’re reunited here. I enjoy seeing the families together.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The increased anti-immigrant rhetoric that my clients face. Talking them through things they see on internet and directly hear from administration and what means for their cases and for their families. I don’t enjoy that because it’s really unnecessary. It’s my opinion it’s frequently racist.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: I love riding my bike around town. I try to get out on the trails. I’ve gone to Cannon Valley to do that trail. Otherwise I’ll bike around town.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: My hometown is Eau Claire. The premier attraction is the lumberjack museum. They have a big lumberjack there. It’s not as big as a lot of the ones in Minnesota but it’s a fun spot. It’s called the Paul Bunyon Logging Camp Museum. We would go on field trips there.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: The immigration bar in general is a group of attorneys that I really admire right now. Seeing them come together and work so diligently under really challenging circumstances over the last two years in particular has been really inspiring.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney or judge?

A: That I spend all day in immigration court. I actually very rarely go to immigration court. I’m frequently at my desk working on paper-based submissions. I do go to homeland security’s office, which is not a court.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: “Better Call Saul” is one of my favorite TV shows. It sometimes hits close to home for solo practice. It’s definitely on the outer edges of it. I really get a kick out of it.

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