Catholic Charities gains lawyer to direct immigration legal affairs

Chelsea Markham Lyle using law degree, passion for helping others to assist immigrants

By Emily Booker

CCETN lawyer Chelsea Markham Lyle is sworn
in as a Tennessee lawyer.

Chelsea Markham Lyle, who is a program leader for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee’s Office of Immigrant Services in Chattanooga, has a passion for helping individuals and families through the immigration process. And now she can help them in a new way: as a lawyer.

Ms. Markham Lyle had the opportunity to travel to Central and South America as a teenager, and those experiences first opened her eyes to other cultures.

“The first time I traveled, for me, it was just very eye-opening, and I fell in love with people,” she said. “And I also got to see the hardships they faced. And so that’s always stuckwith me.”

She had a full immersion experience in another culture at 16 when she spent a year studying in Spain. After college, in which she majored in Spanish and minored in criminal justice, Ms. Markham Lyle returned to Spain to teach and work on her master’s degree. It was there that she decided to pursue a career in law.

She attended Regent University School of Law in Virginia. Once in law school, she realized she was feeling pulled toward immigration law and helping families through the hurdles of immigration policies.

“Since I had the language skill and I had spent so much time in the Hispanic culture, it was something that just pulled at me. And that’s why I went into it.”

She interned at Valverde & Rowell, a legal firm in Virginia that works with immigration law, and at Catholic Charities of East Tennessee.

After finishing law school, she returned to Catholic Charities to work in the Office of Immigrant Services in Chattanooga.

“I was really excited to at least get my foot in the door and also be in a place that I knew fostered the environment that I wanted to be in as well,” she said.

Ms. Markham Lyle is passionate about helping people through the immigration process.

“The thing I guess that keeps me in immigration is knowing what people are facing and seeing people wanting to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of their families and not really having another option or not knowing how to do that. They seek a life out here. It’s very rewarding to see them grow as an individual and to help them be able to accomplish the goals that they had set for themselves. That’s what drives me,” she said.

Earlier this year, she passed the Tennessee bar. On Nov. 7, Ms. Markham Lyle was sworn in as a lawyer at a ceremony in Knoxville. Family and friends were in attendance.

She is happy to have the stress of law school and studying for the bar behind her, but she recognizes the challenges that now come with being a lawyer.

“It’s such a rewarding feeling for your accomplishments to be recognized. On the other hand, it’s a whole new type of burden. It’s a whole new level of responsibility that doesn’t really hit you until you’re given that title,” she said.

“The law is not stagnant; it’s constantly changing. And so as a legal practitioner, you have to stay on top of that.” She works to stay up-to-date on changing laws and new court decisions that might affect her clients at Catholic Charities.

She likes the warm, supportive environment Catholic Charities has for its staff and clients.

“I am excited to see this organization grow. I am excited to see how we are going to continue to reach the community in ways we couldn’t before.”

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