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Alison Heinen

  • Hosted by Beyond Legal Aid
  • Sponsored by Exelon Corporation, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations, Women's Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Alison will empower and educate detained immigrant mothers by providing them holistic direct representation and developing a coalition to bring them sustained attention and assistance.

More than 50,000 Chicago households include a family member who is undocumented, and Illinois has the tenth largest detainee population in the country. Nationally, only 37 percent of all immigrants secure legal representation in their removal cases.

Immigrant mothers who are detained are separated from their children and are often suffering the emotional consequences that come with it like anxiety, depression, and guilt. These women need access to legal counsel that will help them navigate their immigration status and provide particularized attention to legal questions resulting from their status as mothers. Ali’s project will launch a new model of representation to ensure we recognize the detained immigrant mother’s plight.

Over the past seven years of doing public interest legal work in Chicago & Denver, Ali has found herself most affected by the special predicament of mothers trying to protect their children in the most difficult circumstances. Movements for social change in Chicago’s diverse communities frequently include strong, courageous mothers as leaders. Ali wants to ensure immigrant mothers feel empowered even if they are separated from their families and fighting for their rights in a complex immigration system.

Fellowship Plans

Ali will provide quality, client-centered representation to detained immigrant mothers for claims for asylum, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, U Visas, T Visas, bond, and parole. She will conduct trainings for immigrant communities on the collateral issues detained mothers are likely to be concerned about such as custody, school enrollment, and access to public benefits. And, she will develop a coalition of women’s interest groups, including pro bono attorneys, to bring sustained attention and assistance to this vulnerable population.


Exelon's Inaugural Fellow to Spend Two Years Helping Immigrant Mothers

Alison Heinen, 3L, Named 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

My goal is to help immigrant mothers maintain the dignity that is so often stripped away in immigration detention and throughout the removal defense process.

Alison Heinen /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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