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 right of asylum seekers in immigration court, especially those who are pro se.

The asylum system has been under unprecedented attack. Attorney General decisions have sought to narrow eligibility, provide for streamlined denials, and eliminate access to bond for newly arriving asylum seekers. New regulations endeavored to drastically narrow asylum availability for noncitizens based on the way they reached the United States. And a slew of policies have sought to push asylum seekers outside of the United States in order to prevent them from accessing our asylum system. Although the Biden Administration has started to unwind some of former President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, we are a long way away from undoing the harms and establishing humane procedures for asylum seekers. Against this backdrop, the immigration courts have adopted measures that urged judges to plow through cases, at the cost of sacrificing the due process rights of noncitizens who appear before them. There is 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 Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship Krista has:

  • Provided advice and brief service to 50 detainees
  • Participated in 6 high impact litigation cases, which included:
    • Challenging a Department of Homeland Security policy that impeded access to records that may aid a noncitizen’s immigration case in GBLS v. DHS
    • Representing Massachusetts families and their loved ones who were struggling to survive in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols in Bollat Vasquez et al. v. Wolf et al.
    • Representing Massachusetts families with loved ones who were struggling to survive under a Trump-era anti-immigrant rule in Poe v. Mayorkas, resulting in 7 asylum-seeking clients being brought to safety
  • Drafted a letter to the Boston Immigration Court advocating for transparent hearings during COVID-19

Next Steps

In the next year, Krista plans to:

  • Continue challenging a Department of Homeland Security policy that impedes access to records that may aid a noncitizen’s immigration case
  • Continue representing individuals harmed by the government under the Migrant Protection Protocols
  • Work to improve fairness for pro se asylum seekers through amicus briefs and/or direct representation
  • Establish and run an Immigration Court Watch Program to document due process barriers that immigrants face in removal proceedings, with a focus on the Biden Administration’s implementation of a rocket docket at the Boston Immigration Court


Week Ahead in Immigration: July 26, 2021

ACLU sues over Trump-era Title 42 immigration rule, cites case of child expelled from Massachusetts to Guatemala

Seven Asylum-Seekers Will Reunite With Family In Mass. After ACLU Lawsuit

President Biden’s Immigration Executive Actions: A Recap

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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