Maria Blumenfeld

  • Hosted by National Immigrant Justice Center
  • Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation, Reed Smith LLP
  • Service location Goshen, Indiana
  • Law school Valparaiso University School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Unaccompanied immigrant children (UICs) and family units from Central America have entered the United States in unprecedented numbers in recent years. Though the vast majority of the UICs and families who entered during this influx have been released from government custody, nearly all of them must fight their cases in an adversarial system without the benefit of appointed counsel. Children and families’ ability to secure protection is directly tied to their ability to find attorneys. This project will respond to the attorney shortage in the face of the ongoing Central American refugee crisis by offering specialized representation in asylum and special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) cases to immigrants in Indiana.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Maria has:

  • Provided full legal representation to more than 80 clients, and brief service and/or referrals to more than 40 individuals;
  • Won 16 asylum cases for UICs and families from Central America;
  • Filed 20 Special Immigrant Juvenile applications for UICs, and all these children are now only waiting for visa availability to become legal permanent residents;
  • Recruited 20 pro bono attorneys to provide representation to immigrant families from Indiana;
  • Trained judges and attorneys from Indiana about the SIJS so that in the future more immigrant children are able to benefit from this relief;
  • Provided Know Your Rights Presentations to more than 400 individuals.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Maria plans to:

  • Continue to represent unaccompanied immigrant children and families seeking protection in the United States;
  • Continue to advocate for the rights of immigrants;
  • Continue to expand her experience and knowledge in other areas of law;
  • Continue to move forward with a public interest career.

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