Josephine Herman

  • Hosted by Catholic Charities of New York
  • Sponsored by KPMG, The Sidley Austin Foundation
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Josephine will support indigenous Central American immigrant youth by establishing a new medical-legal partnership in New York and by creating resources for culturally and trauma-informed representation. 

In the past year, about a quarter of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border were indigenous Mayans from Central AmericaNew York is the third-highest receiver of unaccompanied immigrant children (UIC) nationally, and is home to many Mayan communities. Mayan youth arriving in the United States face obstacles to accessing resources including language barriers, discrimination, and alienation from formal legal, medical, and educational systems. Many are survivors of trauma and are likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety 

Before law school, Josephine worked to support indigenous communities fighting gender-based violence and historical wrongs in Guatemala. Throughout law school, she worked with asylum-seeking families and youth, including indigenous clients who were additionally harmed by the immigration system. Josephine believes that the indigenous peoples of Central America deserve legal services that acknowledge and affirm their full humanity in a system that falls short of doing so. 

Fellowship Plans

Josephine will partner with medical and mental health providers to create a new forum to provide trauma-informed and culturally competent care centered on Mayan immigrant youth. She will expand Terra Firma, Catholic Charities Community Service’s medical-legal partnership focused on UIC, to an additional area of New York that is home to Mayan immigrants. Josephine will represent UIC in asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and other immigration proceedingshelping them to obtain legal status in the United States. Finally, she will work with indigenous community members to create a guide for attorneys working with Mayan clients to provide quality representation in their immigration claims.  

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