Fellow Story

Learning to be a better advocate

A few months ago, we asked our Fellows to reflect on the experiences that have made them stronger champions of immigrant justice.

During Women’s History Month, we want to highlight six female Fellows who spoke about learning and challenging themselves each day to become better advocates.

See their responses below!

“When I started as a fellow, I took over a case from a previous attorney. We had been able to get the client out of detention while his appeal was pending, but when the appeal was lost, ICE gave my client only 6 months to self-deport. In addition to pursuing an emergency pardon, we resurrected a request for certification for a U visa that had been filed 3 years prior with no success.  Before the 6month deadline, we obtained certification, filed a U visa application, and ICE granted deferred action. Amidst this whirlwind, I learned that nothing is final and to leave no stone unturned — especially when a case goes on for many years.”

Olivia Abrecht
2022 Justice Fellow
National Immigrant Justice Center
New York University School of Law

“The El Paso service trip has made me a more effective advocate. While it was only one week, it was such a great learning experience. I was able to work with different attorneys and go to a detention center to help someone file for asylum. We were able to provide legal support to recent arrivals before they reached their destinations. I hope more Fellows get the opportunity to attend a service trip or do some border work in the future.

Marian Anaya Castillo
2021 Community Fellow
IJC-In House
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

“In this new role I started in August (after my first two IJC years on a different team), I have learned a lot about case management and diligently keeping track of multiple long-term cases, deadlines, clients, etc. The work is very different from the work I was doing before August and these new skills I am acquiring are helping me be a more effective advocate.”

Emily Hauck
2021 Justice Fellow
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
University of Minnesota School of Law

“I have an age-out case that has required me to learn how to do a lot of things within a short timeline. I had to meet with the client and the proposed guardian, develop the affidavit, draft the guardianship petition, the SIJ motion, the SIJ memo, and the proposed order on a very tight deadline. When I filed the petition, the clerk informed me that no full guardianship hearings were available prior to my client’s 18th birthday. As a result, I had to request an emergency hearing. The court scheduled me to appear in two days— I had to quickly prepare. Almost every step of this process was completely new to me.”

Cecelia Masselli
2023 Justice Fellow
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
St. John’s University School of Law

“Before joining the Fellowship, I had no direct experience working on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. However, once I started, I learned the nuts and bolts quickly by helping a staff attorney edit a manual on SIJS cases. The goal of the manual is to demystify the law and to increase state-wide knowledge on how to bring a successful SIJS case. Getting practical pointers and learning from the experience of other practitioners will make me a more effective advocate for my young clients.”  

Melinda Nguyen
2023 Justice Fellow
Orlando Center for Justice
Georgia State University College of Law

“I’ve recently been working on a case involving an at-risk youth. I’ve been working closely with a county social worker to coordinate check-ins and meetings. Learning to involve other trusted adults in my advocacy work has strengthened my ability to gain trust with my client and provide more holistic representation.”

Cedar Weyker
2023 Justice Fellow
Advocates for Human Rights – Minnesota
University of Minnesota School of Law