2007 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Mariam Ahmedani

Mariam Ahmedani

Name of Host Organization: Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc.
City, State: St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue area: Immigrant Populations/Minorities, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP; The Florida Bar Foundation

The Project

The project provides specialized legal services, education and advocacy on behalf of undocumented immigrant children victims of abuse in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The Inspiration

The immigration stories of my family members have had an indelible impact on me. They have shaped who I am and strengthen my resolve to work to protect the rights of immigrants. The current debate on immigration reform and talk of prosecuting those who assist “illegals” only serves to further marginalize immigrants, the most vulnerable among them being children.

Biography

Hometown:

Holtsville, New York

Law school:

Making the connection:

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, police began sweeping up immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. The once vibrant Jackson Heights South Asian community in New York became desolate. The residents were terrified of being victimized by angry mobs or worse yet of being put in detention or deported. As stories of missing family members and deaths in detention spread, I felt increasingly frustrated. It was at this time that I decided to pursue a career in law.

Surviving law school:

I attended a law school, Washington College of Law, that has several opportunities to get involved with public interest work while you are studying. For me, externing at Amnesty International and participating in the International Human Rights Clinic reinforced my desire to work for social justice.

Recommended books:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of the Biafran war for independence through the eyes of several hauntingly real characters, including a child servant working in the home of an academic; Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert seems to be loved by everyone, probably because we all wish we could take a year out of our own lives to indulge in self-discovery and pursue frivolous goals.

Favorite website(s):

Google - because you can find the answer to just about any question by “googling” it.

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