2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

Learn More & Apply

Alizeh Sheikh

The Project

Alizeh (she/her/hers) will advocate on behalf of immigrants detained in Georgia experiencing language access and notice-related due process violations through direct representation and development of pro se materials and practice advisories.

More than 2,000 immigrants detained in Georgia do not speak English and thus face acute language access issues, including having to rely on English-language legal resources to prepare their immigration applications with little to no access to interpretation and translation services. Meanwhile, Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers working in Georgia have encountered dozens of clients whose notices to appear for their removal proceedings had “fake” dates and times. Despite their pervasiveness, these due process issues go largely unaddressed because only about eight non-profit attorneys serve the thousands of people imprisoned in the Georgia ICE detention system.

Through tailored direct representation, Alizeh will identify and pursue strategies for securing relief that she will then use to develop pro se materials to assist immigrants self-advocating for their due process rights.

Alizeh’s past experiences working with diverse immigrant communities in Georgia motivate her commitment to securing relief and release for detained immigrants, so that they can reunite with their families and loved ones.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Alizeh will represent detained immigrants in their immigration proceedings, seeking to terminate or reopen cases based on inadequate interpretation or notice, and arguing for parole or habeas relief when the immigration court’s inability to find an interpreter causes prolonged detention. She will then develop toolkits where pro se immigrants can identify deficient notices and move to terminate their own cases, as well as self-advocate for interpretation and translation services. Alizeh will coordinate her work with grassroots organizing in Georgia and advocacy by a nationwide language access coalition.

Media

Equal Justice Works Names 84 Fellows in 2024 Class

Greenberg Traurig Sponsors Eight Law School Graduates in 2024 Class of Equal Justice Works Fellows

As a child of immigrants born and raised in the South, I am honored to join an organization with a strong track record of securing much-needed relief for immigrants in a region where the legal hurdles they face are notoriously high.

Alizeh Sheikh /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Ana (she/her/hers) will provide crucial intersectional immigration and employment legal services for immigrant victims of labor violations in Texas in response to newly available protections for immigrant workers.

In January 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced a program offering temporary immigration protection and work authorization to immigrant workers who are victims or witnesses of labor abuses, to encourage reporting and cooperation with authorities. Immigrant Texans, including undocumented immigrants and guest workers, are particularly vulnerable to employment violations such as wage theft and sexual harassment, but they face challenges in enforcing their rights due to fear of immigration consequences and a lack of lawyers skilled in both employment and immigration law.

Ana’s belief that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, deserves access to justice is shaped by her upbringing and experiences as a daughter of immigrants.

Fellowship Plans

Ana and the Equal Justice Center are launching this project to integrate employment and immigration legal assistance, focusing on the new DHS program and other immigration relief for workers facing labor violations. Ana’s approach includes screening clients for eligibility, coordinating labor enforcement actions with immigration relief requests, and working with agencies to optimize procedures for this new program. Ana will also collaborate with legal and worker rights groups and conduct outreach to educate immigrant communities about these protections.

As a first-generation Latina from a mixed-status family, I had an early awareness of the struggles faced by immigrant communities and am now committed to serving immigrant workers through legal advocacy.

Ana Martinez /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Annie (she/her) will work with New York Legal Assistance Group to challenge due process violations in Immigration Court and ensure respect for the right to seek asylum.

Since spring 2022, over 160,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City on buses from Texas. Under domestic and international law, everyone fleeing persecution has the right to seek asylum and make their case to remain in the United States. However, New York’s Immigration Courts are overburdened, under functioning, and systematically violating due process rights. As a result, many asylum seekers are wrongfully ordered deported to places where they may fear persecution before they have their day in court.

Annie credits her commitment to immigration advocacy to her family members who moved from Egypt to the United States, a desire to fight the dehumanizing treatment of people she has witnessed while working on borders, and a deep conviction that everyone deserves a safe home.

Fellowship Plans

Annie will challenge wrongful deportation orders through direct representation and systemic advocacy. She will host Know Your Rights sessions at migrant shelters and community centers. Annie will also build a toolkit for other attorneys and pro se litigants to challenge due process violations in Immigration Court.

The United States promises to be a nation of immigrants, but we are closing the front door to our Immigration Courts in the face of the newest New Yorkers. We can — and must — demand better.

Annie Whitney /
2024 Equal Justice Works

The Project

Ben’s (he/him/his) project will focus on providing legal services, outreach, and advocacy to low-income immigrants in Minnesota through hosting legal clinics and engaging in policy reform. Ben’s upbringing and loved ones motivate his commitment to ensuring the rights and human dignity of immigrant communities in his home state of Minnesota are respected and advocated for.

Fellowship Plans

Immigrant communities in Minnesota consistently feel the devastating effects of having to navigate complex immigration systems on their own. Unlike the criminal system, low-income individuals in immigration court proceedings are not guaranteed legal counsel. Currently, around 23,000 immigration court cases are pending in Minnesota with a 44.9% rate of representation. This is concerning because the number of new immigration court cases in Minnesota is rapidly rising, and a noncitizen with legal counsel in such proceedings is five times more likely to obtain relief and avoid deportation.

Ben’s project seeks to reduce the harm caused by the lack of guaranteed legal representation in immigration court proceedings for noncitizens in Minnesota. He will do this by hosting frequent legal clinics in communities, county jails, and at immigration court. These clinics will include relevant educational presentations and partial representation components where attendees will receive individualized advice, access to ample pro se resources, brief services, and referrals to immigration attorneys. While the clinics will not fully make up for a lack of full legal representation, they will provide recurring opportunities for individuals to obtain legal assistance that they otherwise would not get—thus increasing their chances of prevailing in immigration court. Ben’s project will also include advocacy efforts to pass protective policies for the communities he is serving.

Every day the United States immigration system facilitates the detention and deportation of noncitizens. Every person facing those grave consequences of the system deserves legal rights and representation.

Ben Gleekel /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Chelsea (she/her) advocates for the rights of immigrants facing deportation within the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit under the Convention Against Torture.

Fifty thousand asylum cases are pending in the First Circuit, most of which include claims for relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). It is thus imperative that well developed immigration law in the First Circuit protects those who would otherwise suffer persecution, torture, or death if deported. There remain significant gaps in First Circuit immigration jurisprudence that jeopardize a person’s right to a fair hearing and ability to obtain relief from deportation, and immigration lawyers are not always familiar with CAT claims. This presents an important opportunity for growth, especially because asylum is extremely challenging for many immigrants to obtain, and CAT relief may be their only option to remain safely in the United States.

Chelsea’s experience working with refugees and immigrants in Salt Lake City and witnessing the deep need for affordable legal services motivated her to go to law school and pursue immigration law. Her subsequent work with immigrant clients only further illustrated the many challenges that immigrants face when navigating the complex immigration system and the importance of due process protections and quality representation in immigration proceedings.

Fellowship Plans

Prioritizing cases with the potential to shape immigration law, Chelsea will advance immigration jurisprudence in the First Circuit by representing immigrants who are appealing the denial of their cases and by strategically filing amicus briefs in the areas of asylum, CAT, procedural due process, and standard of review. Chelsea will also educate immigration attorneys on how to successfully represent CAT claims in immigration court using new, positive caselaw that benefits immigrants seeking CAT relief.

Media

New EJW Fellows Named

In working with immigrant clients at risk of deportation, I learned the critical role that strategic impact litigation has in establishing and protecting immigrants’ rights. This fellowship will allow me to progress immigration law and ensure that immigrants can remain safely in the United States.

Chelsea Eddy /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Athena (she/ella) will represent immigrant and undocumented workers in Napa and Sonoma counties who have no access to free employment legal services, leveraging new federal and state programs aimed at encouraging undocumented workers to vindicate their rights.

While Napa and Sonoma counties are internationally known for their award-winning wines, lesser known is that undocumented workers, disproportionately represented in wine-related sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, are overworked and exploited to keep this billion-dollar industry running. As the climate crisis exacerbates wildfires, flooding and extreme heat in the region, low-income, largely undocumented farmworkers work in progressively unbearable conditions. Well-founded fears of immigration-related retaliation by powerful wine industry employers dissuades many workers from filing complaints and no other legal services provider in the region can help individual workers in employment matters regardless of immigration status. As a result, this rural, often isolated workforce faces a profound access-to-justice gap that makes it nearly impossible to recover stolen wages, enforce safety protections, and fight discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Athena’s immigrant and low-income background motivates her commitment to provide trauma-informed, culturally competent legal advocacy that derives from and centers the needs of the immigrant community. She hopes to dedicate her career to providing free legal representation to immigrant workers that seek to obtain fair wages and working conditions for themselves, their coworkers, and their community.

Fellowship Plans

Athena will empower immigrant workers to fight against oppressive employment practices through outreach and education in partnership with local immigrant-serving organizations, direct legal representation, and impact litigation focusing on expanding protections for immigrant low-wage workers. Athena will also utilize and expand access to recently formalized immigration policies that provide Deferred Action to witnesses and victims of workplace violations. Athena will increase awareness of this important protection against immigration-related retaliation and advocate with employment enforcement agencies to ensure equitable access to this benefit for low-income immigrant workers.

“This Fellowship represents an important step towards combatting the historical lack of investment of resources in this region’s low-wage and largely undocumented workforce."

Athena Arana /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Cristina’s (she/her/hers) project will focus on providing legal representation and social services connections to 18- to 20-year-old immigrant youth in Western Washington who are at risk of homelessness and deportation.

About 1,300 of the 152,000 unaccompanied minors encountered along the U.S.-Mexico boarder in 2022 were released to sponsors in Washington by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. In the U.S. immigration system, these vulnerable children have no right to appointed counsel. To complicate matters further, certain forms of immigration relief require applicants to be under 21 years old, adding urgency to the situation for many. Cristina will secure immigration relief for immigrant youth who are facing deportation, especially those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, so that they may qualify for essential social services.

My lived experiences as an undocumented woman and the due process violations immigrant communities are constantly subject to are what drive me to work with immigrant populations. I was once an immigrant child who was subject to the terror of the immigration system and this Fellowship will give me the opportunity to help other immigrant youth navigate the draconian system so they do not have to go through it alone.

Fellowship Plans

Cristina will work with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s (NWIRP) Children and Youth Advocacy Program (CYAP). Cristina will partner with two Western Washington NWIRP offices, pro bono legal service partners, and other organizations. She will screen for relief, particularly Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification and Vulnerable Youth Guardianship (VYG), a mechanism that allows youth ages 18-20 to access SIJ protection. She will also work to connect clients to social services.

“My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to serve immigrant youth in Western Washington who are at risk of homelessness and deportation. This Fellowship will allow me the honor of continuing to serve immigrant populations in my community.”

Cristina G. Gamundi Garcia /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Jocelyn’s (she/her/hers/ella) project will focus on advocating for immigrant survivors of trafficking in the greater San Francisco Bay Area through direct legal representation, community outreach, and coalition building.

California has consistently had the greatest number of human trafficking cases in the nation. Trafficking survivors in California experience systemic vulnerability to extortion and abuse because of their lack of immigration legal status in the US. Although immigration pathways exist to help survivors retain their agency and become empowered to report such abuse, survivors are prevented from seeking this relief because of a lack of access to screening and direct representation.

As a daughter of immigrant farmworkers, an industry that is often rampant with cases of trafficking and abuse towards immigrant workers, Jocelyn is committed to help combat the coercion and abuse targeted at immigrant populations. She is hopeful that this Fellowship will help empower survivors to safely pursue justice and support without the fear of being deported or detained by immigration officials.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jocelyn will provide access to forms of relief that are available to immigrant survivors of trafficking. She will provide trauma-informed legal representation to immigrant survivors throughout the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area’s seven offices, stretching from Redwood City to Petaluma. To increase community awareness and accessibility of her work, Jocelyn will digitize and promote educational resources for both clients and staff in languages such as English, Spanish, and Hindi. Additionally, Jocelyn will work with community partners and government stakeholders to recognize and address the legal needs of the immigrant populations they serve.

Media

Sponsoring Initiatives to Advance Social Justice

The Project

Kelsey advocates on behalf of unaccompanied immigrant children (UC) in Central Florida through community education and coalition building to improve UC legal outcomes and integration in the community. Unaccompanied immigrant children (UC) are children under 18 who lack lawful immigration status in the United States and are either without a parent or legal guardian in the United States or without a parent or legal guardian in the United States who is available to provide care and physical custody. Almost all UC are currently in or have been in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, are grappling with trauma, and are not guaranteed a government appointed counsel free of cost to face deportation proceedings. In Central Florida, lack of resources pervades the legal and social systems responsible for the well-being of UC, rendering their ongoing journey in search of protection fraught and unfairly limited to the “lucky” few.

After working in education, Kelsey knew that she wanted to pursue a law degree so that she could amplify the voices of children within the legal system. Kelsey is thrilled that her fellowship will enable her advocate for immigrant children in the Central Florida community.

Fellowship Plans

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) aims to help fill the gap in unmet need for legal services and social service support for UC in Central and North Florida. Kelsey will provide direct representation for legal cases, as well as develop navigator tools to help UC understand their rights as newcomers to Central Florida. Kelsey will also lead the creation of the Central Florida Unaccompanied Children’s Task Force to identify strategies to reduce barriers to UC school enrollment. Furthermore, Kelsey will develop and deliver trainings to educate attorneys, social workers, and others about UC, the juvenile immigration system, and common forms of relief.

“For me, this fellowship means bringing my family’s immigration story full circle. As the daughter of a blended Nicaraguan American family, I am so humbled that I am now able to be the advocate in another child’s life.”

Kelsey Peña /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Adrienne (she/her) challenges the systemic issues that disproportionately affect Southeast Asian (“SEA”) refugees by making post-conviction relief for immigration purposes and culturally sensitive legal representation more accessible.

SEA refugees are distinct from other immigrant groups because their trauma is twofold; after being displaced by war and violence, they were also forced to grapple with the challenges of navigating a new cultural environment. Their trauma manifests in various ways, including challenges with mental health, difficulty in adapting to a new culture, and, in some cases, involvement in criminal activities as a means of coping or survival. SEA refugees, consequently, are three to five times more likely to be deported on the basis of old criminal convictions compared with other refugee communities. Economic, cultural, and language barriers faced by SEA immigrants underscore the dire need for affordable and accessible legal representation in post-conviction immigration cases. In spite of this demand, pro bono post-conviction relief services in Orange County for SEA refugees are extremely limited and impacted—where resides the largest Vietnamese immigrant population outside of Vietnam.

Adrienne has observed firsthand how easy it is for immigrants to feel misunderstood and mistreated when they are met with so many barriers to residency and citizenship. She believes that understanding the cultural forces that influence her clients’ motivations and end goals enables her to amplify the voices of SEA immigrants and empower them to confidently advocate for themselves.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Adrienne will represent SEA immigrants in filing California Penal Code § 1473.7(a)(1) motions to vacate prior convictions because of prejudicial error that hurt the clients’ abilities to “meaningfully understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of a conviction or sentence.” After vacating their deportable convictions, these clients will be able to challenge their removal orders or pursue immigration benefits without fear of ICE detection. In addition, Adrienne will also collaborate with community organizers and the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to host community training workshops on post-conviction relief, empowering SEA immigrants to learn about their relief options and regain agency over their immigration journeys.

Media

Equal Justice Works Names 84 Fellows in 2024 Class

“My commitment to this project is rooted in my upbringing as a child of Vietnamese American refugees. Coming from a community that exemplifies such resilience has radically shaped my understanding of justice.”

Adrienne Pham /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow