Photo of Emily Heger

Emily Heger

  • Hosted by Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
  • Sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, AT&T
  • Service location Dallas, Texas
  • Law school Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Emily will represent survivors of gender-based violence seeking asylum in the United States while broadening the precedent of our nation’s asylum law as well as, educating the immigrant and legal communities and mobilizing a nationwide collective of pro bono attorneys.

Women around the world are victim to gender-based violence in countries that offer impunity to the perpetrators. Survivors of gender-based violence often seek safety and refuge in the United States, but currently their rights are under assault and their legal remedies are seemingly deteriorating. In Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), home to 1.2 million immigrants, not a single organization has been able to place a pro bono gender-based violence asylum case since this area of law has become so complex. And, DFW is not an anomaly. Emily’s project will fill a gap in services that is critical for both the survivors and our nation’s immigration law.

Emily made a commitment to dedicate her career fighting for the safety of the tens of thousands of women who are victims of domestic abuse in countries that offer them no hope of protection or justice. While working as the COO of Akola Project – a non-profit that empowers women to realize and walk in their own agency as change makers – Emily learned that the most marginalized women are typically migrants. Her passion for serving immigrant and refugee women was cemented as she worked to adapt Akola’s model to best impact this population.

Fellowship Plan

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) is the only organization in DFW providing pro bono legal services for asylum seekers. Since Matter of A.B., HRI has been unable to place domestic violence (DV) cases with pro bono attorneys. Emily’s project will fill a gap in services that is critical for both DV survivors and our nation’s immigration law by focusing on three areas. First, Emily will directly represent survivors of DV seeking asylum. Second, Emily will challenge the narrowed interpretation of “particular social group”. Third, she will equip the legal services community to represent DV asylum seekers.

Meet Other Fellows Like Emily

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Shari Lee Genser

Host: Essex-Newark Legal Services

Sponsor: Bill Brockett Public Interest Fellowship

Vivian Lehrer

Host: Urban Justice Center

Sponsor: Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Ramey Ko

Host: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.

Sponsor: Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation

Sabrina Talukder

Host: The Legal Aid Society

Sponsor: Dentons