Krista Oehlke

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
  • Sponsored by DLA Piper LLP (US), John Hancock
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Krista uses strategic litigation, advocacy, and education as tools to protect the due process rights of asylum seekers in immigration court, especially those who are pro se.

Asylum is under unprecedented attack. Immigrants fleeing persecution have long had to overcome challenges to be awarded asylum. These challenges are now compounded by policies that treat asylum as a “loophole” that must be closed, rather than as a commitment made to people who need America’s help. Attorney General decisions have sought to narrow eligibility, provide for streamlined denials, and eliminate access to bond for newly arriving asylum seekers. The immigration courts have adopted metrics that urge judges to plow through cases, and new regulations have drastically narrowed asylum’s availability for noncitizens based on the way they reached the United States and their ability to pay. Few understand the impacts of these barriers, particularly for individuals who do not have lawyers. These and other problems present a need for systemic approaches to preserving access to asylum, both throughout the country and in Massachusetts.

Krista believes that the immigration court system should be used as a tool for fair adjudication and not deportation. She hopes to chip away at harmful immigration policies that tend to disparately impact certain groups, including the Latinx community.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Krista will engage in strategic litigation to expand access to justice for asylum seekers whose rights have been violated by the current system. Krista will also develop educational materials, conduct outreach to pro se asylum seekers in detention centers throughout Massachusetts, monitor immigration courts, and initiate public advocacy and litigation.

If it were not for my grandparents’ journey from Mexico to the United States, I would not be here today. That journey has become increasingly criminalized and politicized. I know it’s my calling to pay it forward.

Krista Oehlke /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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