Lien Tran

Alumni / Lien Tran, Amigo Legal Games


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This project uses games to teach immigrant youth their rights so they can better understand their legal situation and effectively defend themselves in court.

What social challenge are you working on?

Every year over 8,000 immigrant children are detained and put into removal proceedings by the U.S. government because of their undocumented status. However, many of these detained youth are eligible for legal relief because they have been abandoned, neglected or abused by their parents, are victims of crimes or trafficking, or are seeking asylum. Immigration law is one of the most complex legal codes in the U.S., and it’s unjust that a child should have to navigate this labyrinth by himself without legal guidance and yet legal counsel is not guaranteed to unaccompanied immigrant children.

How are you using games to address this injustice?

The main motivation for this project was trying to make really complex and confusing legal information accessible to immigrant children so that, in the absence of scarce resources like immigration attorneys, they can be better informed of their options, make better decisions, and ideally have better outcomes in their legal proceedings. Currently, all the information detained immigrant youth receive is from an authorized official if one is available. However, a game is a fun and memorable way for these youth to learn the essentials, reserving lawyers’ and other experts limited time for more complex questions and needs. Also with increased accessibility to information and answers, these children will be more engaged and will fight harder to win their cases because they know what the process entails. Games are an excellent medium for immigrant youth to learn about their legal options because games are inherently systems: a player makes choices within the game that impact his or her game outcome, just as legal choices impact the outcome of a person’s legal case.

I’m designing games that will become part of AmigoLegal’s suite of legal resources for immigrant youth. I just finished designing the first game which teaches children who have been detained in the U.S. and who are living in detention facilities about their options for release from detention. I plan to test the game with immigrant youth in New York and Florida and to conduct pre- and post-game assessment of the players’ understanding of the game content. Thanks to the New Challenge funding I will be able to design and test one to two more games for detained immigrant youth and will then work on a distribution plan for the game sets to be used by detention facility staff, immigration attorneys, teachers, and immigrant youth and their families.

What inspired you to start this project?

At Parsons I discovered an interest in designing serious games for humanitarian causes. One outcome I wanted to achieve with my thesis was to further spread throughout the nonprofit sector the message that games are serious and can serve the purpose of effectively communicating complex information in a variety of contexts. This project allowed me to apply my design skills and to send this message to a new population, the pro bono legal community, for a great and underrepresented cause: addressing the information and justice gap undocumented immigrant children are confronted with in the U.S.

How are partnerships helping put Amigo Legal Games into action?

This project is in partnership with Shalyn Fluharty, an immigration attorney and founder of AmigoLegal, an organization creating the first set of Know Your Rights curriculum and resources designed specifically for unaccompanied immigrant children. Our partnership brings together the legal knowledge, education and assessment experience, game design skills, and access to the immigration community at-large necessary to develop games that help immigrant youth understand their legal situation and rights.

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