Jesse (he/him/his) will improve housing conditions and support immigrant empowerment through a community lawyering model, including outreach, education, leadership development, and litigation.
Columbus is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., but people in poverty face a housing crisis. Among those most vulnerable are members of immigrant communities. Columbus has the largest Bhutanese-Nepali community and the second-largest Somali community of any city in the country. Just as the city is growing, so too are the number of immigrants and refugees.
Due to a shortage of affordable housing, many immigrants and refugees live in unsafe properties. Landlords fail to maintain safe and habitable conditions, subjecting tenants to massive water leaks, mold, pest infestations, failure to make regular repairs, and sometimes illegal rent hikes and unlawful evictions.
Jesse’s work with the Central Ohio Housing Action Network, a grassroots community law project he co-founded in May 2020, motivates his commitment to community partnerships for transformative change.
During his Fellowship, Jesse will educate and empower immigrant populations to better understand and protect their rights by holding office hours in immigrant neighborhoods and hosting community meetings on tenants’ rights and housing issues in partnership with immigrant leaders. He will represent tenants in rent escrow and nuisance abatement actions to improve housing conditions and hold landlords accountable. Finally, he will protect housing stability by representing tenants in eviction defense.
Achieving safe and affordable housing for all takes more than litigation wins– my work with organizers has taught me it takes relationships of trust with those most affected.
Jesse Vogel /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Ashleigh’s project helps DOVE expand its current services to include immigration and criminal record relief for human trafficking victims in the South Shore, Massachusetts community.
Human trafficking is one of the most endemic crimes of our time, yet our legal system has only recently begun to address it. In Massachusetts, trafficking was not codified as a crime until 2011 – making it one of the last states in the country to do so – and there remains a lack of knowledge throughout the state about the ability to serve victims through the legal system. The National Survivor Network released results of a 2016 survey indicating over 90% of trafficking victims are arrested at some point during their trafficking experience and over half believe that 100% of the following convictions were a direct result of their being a victim of trafficking. Further, abuse of the legal process is one of the most common tactics traffickers use to coerce their victims into compliance, and in the labor trafficking context, this generally includes: confiscating legal documents, causing victims to overstay their visas, bringing them over to the U.S. on false work terms, and so when victims escape they are left incredibly vulnerable to U.S. immigration laws.
Ashleigh is excited about the potential DOVE has to transform the anti-trafficking landscape in Massachusetts by providing Massachusetts trafficking victims with the services they need to break free of chains their traffickers have placed upon them and move forward with their healing process.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
During the first year of the Fellowship, Ashleigh has:
- Participated in advocacy around a bill supporting U and T Visa applicants in Massachusetts that has now become law. The new law will ensure that victims of violent crime and human trafficking have equal access to justice in Massachusetts by requiring that victims across the Commonwealth receive responses to U and T visa certification requests within 90 days.
- Addressed Jane Doe, Inc.’s (Massachusetts’ domestic violence coalition’s) members on the topic of decriminalizing survivorship and on a bill related to expanding criminal record relief for survivors of trafficking and abuse filed in Massachusetts this spring.
- Presented at the ILET Network’s first annual International Summit on Counter Sex Trafficking on the topic of forced and coerced criminality of trafficking survivors and their need for effective criminal record relief.
In the next year, Ashleigh plans to:
- Continue to serve clients on immigration, criminal record relief, restraining orders, and victims rights matters.
- Collaborate with DOVE program directors to create sustainable methods of screening and materials to identify survivors of human trafficking within domestic violence populations.
- Continue to conduct outreach at community hubs within DOVE’s service area to promote programming and raise awareness about human trafficking.
Karin restored vulnerable veterans’ rights to VA resources through direct representation of discharge upgrades/VA benefits applications and strengthen ties between the legal and veteran’s community.
The consequences of war affect our veterans long after they return from deployment. The benefits available to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are essential to a successful transition back to civilian life. However, many veterans encounter significant barriers to the benefits they deserve, most notably difficulty navigating the claims process and preclusive discharge statuses.
When Karin started at LASC, the Columbus legal community was not equipped to address the needs of the 110,000 veterans living there. Karin’s fellowship started a sustainable veterans law practice at LASC and revived a dormant statewide veterans law task force. She also worked with community partners to foster additional collaboration between social service agencies serving veterans.
In the past two years, Karin has:
- Increased LASC’s presence and relationships in the veterans’ community by adding on-site brief advice hours and estate planning clinics at VA medical centers and a veteran-focused homeless shelter.
- Increased LASC’s capacity to serve veterans by recruiting new 6 pro bono volunteer attorneys and a new veterans law fellow focused on engaging with community contacts developed during Karin’s fellowship.
- Obtained lump sum payments and debt write-offs for 15 veterans totaling $97,886.13 and monthly benefits payments for 10 veterans totaling $7,631.59.
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Karin plans to remain at LASC as a staff attorney, splitting her time between VA benefits, discharge upgrades, and education work. She will also serve as the direct supervisor for LASC’s newest veterans law fellow. She is grateful to her sponsors, the Procter & Gamble Co. and Jones Day, for the opportunity to spend two years focused on establishing a veterans law practice at LASC.