Photo of Maricela Lechuga

Maricela Lechuga

  • Hosted by Tahirih Justice Center
  • Sponsored by DLA Piper LLP (US), Hilton Worldwide
  • Service location Falls Church, Virginia
  • Law school American University, Washington College of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

The goal of the Justice for Mothers Project is to address the on going needs of immigrant mothers and their children who were released from family detention centers also known as adults with children (“AWC”) who are now seeking gender-based asylum in the US.

The Justice for Mothers Project identified and addressed the need for pro se asylum. Because AWCs have been experiencing long wait times and sometimes not getting their first day in court until well after their one-year filing deadlines, there is a big need for pro se assistance to help AWCs file their applications timely. These clinics were informed by popular education methodologies and included self-help materials, and know your rights sessions seeking to raise consciousness around gender inequality and “feminism” as a political opinion. As part of these clinics the Justice for Mothers project also sought to address issues around language access by incorporating an interpreting for social justice methodology.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Maricela:

  • Organized five pro se asylum clinics for AWCs seeking gender-based asylum in the US.
  • Designed and led interpreting for social justice trainings for Tahirih staff and volunteers who work as or with interpreters. The trainings seeks to raise consciousness about discrimination, power, privilege, and inclusion as it relates to language access issues and how interpretation can be used as an opportunity for social justice.
  • Led Know Your Rights presentations in collaboration with various community organizations.
  • Marshaled resources to bolster Tahirih’s social services program by identifying needs and connecting Tahirih to various community resources.
  • Volunteered at a family detention center in Dilly, TX, helping mothers and their children prepare for their credible fear interviews with an asylum officer.
  • Worked on large-scale policy advocacy

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Maricela plans to relocate to San Jose, CA with family; pursue a career in executive leadership or immigration policy; and continue to advocate with vulnerable populations.

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Alisa Wellek

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Sponsor: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel