2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Jake Kmiech

The Project

Jake will partner with his host organization, CASA, inc. to proudly represent immigrant communities facing housing instability throughout Maryland, ensuring they have access to safe housing and justice.

Housing instability in Maryland has reached a crescendo. Eviction rates and rents have risen hand-in-hand while housing conditions often have not, burdening low-income families already struggling to keep a safe roof over their heads. Housing instability specifically has a disproportionate impact on members of Maryland’s low-income immigrant community, who have unequal access to remedies under Maryland’s legal system due to language and cost barriers.

Fellowship Plans

Jake will provide direct and full legal services to tenants facing eviction, inhumane and unsafe property conditions, wrongful detainer suits, and other legal issues related to housing security. From initial interviews to trial, Jake will help tenants see a fair day in court. Additionally, Jake will host Know Your Rights training presentations. Knowledge is power, and this is especially true within our legal system. Jake will also aid community organizing efforts, campaign for improved laws, and draft legislation on behalf of Maryland’s immigrant communities.

In college, Jake dreamed of becoming an immigration attorney. However, after struggling with unsafe housing conditions while working towards his law degree, and after hearing hundreds of similar stories from almost everyone he knew, Jake switched gears. He believes that all people deserve access to stable housing and hopes to create a pathway for tenants to learn their rights and seek justice.

Media

Meet the Fellows in Our 2022 Housing Justice Program

I am proud to advocate for the rights of immigrant communities and tenants as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. In doing so, I play an active part in creating a more just and equitable society.

Jake Kmiech /
2022 Housing Justice Program Fellow

The Project

Dan helps workers in the Twin Cities’ construction industry defend their workplace rights and build power through the Building Dignity and Respect Program.

Non-union construction workers in the Twin Cities’ experience widespread wage theft and other workers’ rights abuses. Through Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) these workers are joining together to defend their rights, support each other, and develop lasting worker empowerment. As part of this effort, workers are calling on Twin Cities developers to join the newly launched Building Dignity and Respect (BDR) Program, a human rights program built on the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility model.

In the BDR Program, “participating developers sign a legally binding agreement to uphold certain human rights standards on their projects. This includes worker protections from wage theft, physical and sexual abuse, and human trafficking, as well as access to safe working conditions and fair pay. Workers are made aware of these protections through comprehensive, worker-designed education sessions, empowering them to become frontline defenders of their own human rights. The Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council then monitors participating developers’ job sites to ensure all contractors are operating in compliance with the Code. If contractors are found to be in violation of the Code, and refuse to take appropriate steps to come into compliance, they will no longer be able to work for participating developers.”

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Dan has:

  • Advised workers and organizers in their efforts to build power, strengthen workplace safety, and respond to discrimination
  • Led a campaign supporting the introduction of workplace safety legislation at the state level
  • Presented to policymakers at the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Federal Trade Commission, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Next Steps

In the next year, Dan plans to:

  • Help develop CTUL’s efforts to support workers with claims of wage theft or other labor violations
  • Provide legal support for the development and implementation of the BDR Program
  • Assist with worker-to-worker educational efforts about labor standards

The Project

Karla developed federal court strategies to challenge prolonged and arbitrary immigration detention and systemic and unreasonable delays in the adjudication of immigration applications.

Over the past two decades, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have subjected immigrants to extensive and increasing delays in processing their cases. Immigrants must then endure prolonged detention while they await decisions on their cases, resulting in more individuals spending months or even years incarcerated and separated from their families. This is a new and particularly profound problem for arriving asylum seekers, who, in many cases, are subject to mandatory detention with little opportunity for release on humanitarian parole. Without federal court pressure on these cases, many immigrants may be stuck in limbo for years.

When Karla was a toddler, she and her family emigrated from Mexico and settled in Nebraska; however, it took Karla nearly 15 years to become a United States citizen. Karla wants to serve immigrant populations so they too can be free from the anxiety and harm caused by bureaucratic delays and immigration detention.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Karla:
  • Provided legal services to 11 individuals experiencing prolonged detention with Immigration & Customs Enforcement by submitting petitions for writs of habeas corpus in federal district courts
  • Submitted conditions of detention complaints on behalf of three detained individuals to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
  • Provided legal services to 18 individuals experiencing unreasonable adjudication delays of their respective immigration applications pending before United States Citizenship & Immigration Services by submitting writs of mandamus complaints in federal district courts
  • Submitted an administrative complaint under the Federal Torts Claim Act for an individual separated from her child under the 2018 Zero Tolerance Policy of the Trump Administration (also known as family separation)
  • Created a petition for writ of habeas corpus packet for pro se litigants to challenge their prolonged detentions with Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Next Steps

Karla will continue as a zealous advocate for the immigration community throughout her career.

Media

Early life experiences led to public interest advocacy for alum Karla Olivas

The Project

George-Marie Jasmin works with The Medical Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC), a program of the Boston Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, MLPC is a medical-legal partnership designed to improve the health, welfare and basic needs of low-income children and their families. This mission is achieved through legal assistance to families, education and training of health care staff and the communities they serve, and collaborative systemic advocacy.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration