Photo of Dominique Mejia

Dominique Mejia

  • Hosted by National Immigrant Justice Center
  • Sponsored by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, United Airlines, Inc.
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school DePaul University College of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Dominique (she/her/hers) uses advocacy, outreach, and litigation to protect Illinois immigrant youth from deportation by accessing state court via a new law that expands Special Immigrant Juvenile Status eligibility.

Every year, thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children enter the United States fleeing violence, abuse, and neglect. They may face deportation and family separation if they cannot establish eligibility for immigration relief. Some of these immigrant youth can obtain protection through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which creates a path to lawful status for immigrant youth who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Although federal law makes SIJS available to youth under 21, many states limit eligibility for predicate orders to children under 18, effectively excluding eligible youth based on their residence. In 2021, Illinois expanded eligibility to 18 to 21-year-olds. There is now an urgent need to increase awareness of the new law and ensure immigrant youth have access to attorneys with experience in both the immigration and Illinois court systems.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Dominique will represent immigrant youth in both state court and immigration proceedings. She will also conduct legal trainings for attorneys, judges, and immigrant youth advocates who may screen and represent clients in SIJS proceedings, as well as provide pro bono training and support. Additionally, Dominique will develop best practices and models for implementing this new law in Illinois.

My interest in immigration law and public service generally is deeply rooted in my personal experience being a child of undocumented Mexican immigrants. I learned from a young age about the importance of community and putting others before oneself, but I also learned the harsh realities of living without privilege and security which fuels my passion for this cause.

Dominique Mejia /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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