Austin (he/him/his) will seek the release of individuals subject to prolonged immigration detention in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) through federal habeas corpus litigation and coordinated public advocacy campaigns.
Civil immigration detention has expanded rapidly in recent years, reaching an all-time peak in 2019. Due to challenges such as the lack of adequate medical and mental health services in detention centers, difficulty securing legal representation, long-term separation from family members, and the risk of contracting COVID-19 in confined settings, detained immigrants are often forced to give up on their viable immigration cases and accept deportation to their home countries. Individuals subject to prolonged immigration detention have a right to seek release through habeas corpus litigation challenging the constitutionality of their detention in federal court and may be able to advocate for their release outside of court with the help of community groups. Yet due to the capacity constraints of non-profit organizations and the realities of social isolation in detention, many detained immigrants have to fight their cases alone.
Austin draws inspiration for his project from his late grandfather, who showed him the importance of standing in solidarity with those in prison, and from his former clients, who have experienced and bravely fought through the trauma of immigration detention.
Austin will employ litigation and public advocacy to secure the release of individuals subject to prolonged immigration detention and build a broader anti-detention movement in the DMV region. Austin’s project has three core prongs. First, he will litigate targeted habeas cases in federal court with the aim of building favorable precedent in the Fourth Circuit and beyond. Second, Austin will train and collaborate with a network of pro bono attorneys to litigate habeas cases across the region. Third, Austin will work alongside local community organizations to coordinate public advocacy campaigns seeking clients’ release.
Immigration detention, not only on the border but across the United States, is a form of family separation. I hope to fight the rest of my career to get people out of cages and back with their families.
Austin Rose /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Amanda represents the rising number of immigrant youth in the dependency system as a result of shifting immigration policies that increasingly destabilize and separate immigrant families.
Recent shifts in immigration policies have immensely threatened the safety, security, and stability of immigrant families, resulting in a growing number of immigrant children in the child welfare system. These young people have distinct needs in the child welfare system, such as precarious legal status of their family members and themselves, distinct multicultural and linguistic backgrounds, or complex trauma as a result of immigration histories in an era of emboldened xenophobia. This project addresses these unique needs through holistic and trauma-informed advocacy.
Amanda is motivated to leverage her legal skills and access to systems of power to challenge the insidious ways in which immigrant communities of color are targeted, criminalized, and dehumanized by our legal system. She hopes to contribute to ongoing immigrant rights movements to ensure that everyone—regardless of immigration status—has access to the resources and legal protections necessary to live a life full of dignity and safety.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the first year of the Fellowship, Amanda has:
- Represented 14 young people who have been placed in the child welfare system in both their dependency and immigration matters.
- Successfully advocated for enforcement of dependent youths’ rights to visit caregivers and siblings, adequate and effective medical and psychiatric care, and access to transitional housing placements.
- Filed 8 petitions for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, 3 applications for Asylum, 1 petition for Nonimmigrant U Status, and 3 applications for work authorization.
In the next year, Amanda plans to:
- Expand her representation model to account for educational rights for immigrant foster youth.
- Develop a training series for local child protective services agencies on the specific needs and rights of immigrant foster youth.
- Provide technical assistance and mentorship to local dependency attorneys in order to build capacity for the effective representation of all immigrant-dependent youth.
Dana’s Fellowship used outreach, advocacy, and litigation to protect the right to vote for eligible voters in pretrial detention and ensure they have meaningful access to the ballot.
2.3 million people are incarcerated every day in the United States, one-third of whom are incarcerated in jails in pretrial detention or for misdemeanor convictions. Most of these 750,000 people retain their right to vote because they have not been convicted of a disqualifying felony. Because these voters are in jail, though, they cannot vote in person, and accessing election information and absentee ballots can be difficult or impossible. Dana ensured these voters had real access to the ballot box and could exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Dana’s experience while running a canvassing program brought into stark relief how racism and poverty operate in complex, insidious ways to restrict access to the ballot box and disempower those who have been historically marginalized. It showed her who she wanted to work for; she wanted her canvassers to be her clients.
During the two-year Fellowship, Dana:
- Created a system for mail-based voter outreach to jailed voters that has provided know your rights information to thousands of incarcerated voters in Virginia and Arizona
- Worked on advocacy to successfully pressure Arizona to promulgate a rule requiring local election officials have plans in place to enfranchise jailed voters
- Worked on several oversight reports, shedding light on jail-based disenfranchisement at the state and local levels
- Worked with local coalitions to draft legislation to address jail-based disenfranchisement in four states and one of those bills passed in Maryland in 2021
- Created an advocacy guide to empower advocates and educate the public on jail-based disenfranchisement
- Co-hosted a series of webinars on jail-based disenfranchisement that have had more than 600 attendees
Dana will be joining the Department of Justice in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division. In that role, Dana will continue to litigate cases to vindicate the rights of historically marginalized voters.
Adina will expand holistic deportation defense representation for detained immigrants with criminal convictions who have significant family and community ties throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
There is no right to a public defender in immigration court and therefore, the vast majority of detained immigrants lack access to counsel, including those with criminal convictions. The growing nexus of criminal and immigration law, or “crimmigration,” has enmeshed convictions and deportation: in FY2013, 59% of deported immigrants had been convicted of a crime, primarily for minor offenses such as traffic violations or simple drug possession. Many immigrants facing crime-based deportation have significant family and community ties, are legal green card holders, and serve as family breadwinners. Moreover, an estimated 4.5 million U.S. citizen children have an undocumented parent at risk of deportation. Minor violations and mistakes – that many Americans make – can mean the double, disproportionate punishment of banishment from society and permanent separation from family. Yet the impact of access to immigration counsel is clear. In New York alone, 74% of non citizens who are represented secure relief from deportation, compared to 13% who lack counsel. Although detained non citizens with crimes have the most complex arguments to make against deportation, and may be eligible for relief if such arguments are made, they are often the least likely to be placed with pro bono counsel.
During her Fellowship, Adina:
- Built a network of pro bono attorneys dedicated to representing detained immigrants with convictions facing deportation through advocacy, recruitment, and trainings
- Provided test case representation to clients based on priority categories of non citizens most disproportionately affected by crime-based deportation
- Initiated process for DC, MD, and VA criminal public defenders to refer detained clients who meet test case priority categories
- Drafted crim-imm pro se materials and advisories
Katrina protected the rights of Bronx students with childhood trauma and behavioral and emotional health challenges through direct representation in discipline and special education hearings, medical-legal partnerships, and community-based advocacy and education.
Bronx students with disabilities, including those with behavioral and emotional health challenges rooted in childhood trauma, are disproportionately subject to harsh discipline practices. Though they represent only 20.2% of the student population, students with disabilities account for over 40% of students suspended after law enforcement contact, students suspended more than once, and students transported from school to psychiatric emergency rooms. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and State and City regulations protect these students’ rights to an inclusive education environment and appropriate interventions during behavioral crises. However, advocacy under these laws involves long-term engagement with government stakeholders and complex individual hearings that often require legal counsel.
During the two-year Fellowship period, Katrina:
- Filed and is led negotiations on a federal lawsuit, with the support of Arnold & Porter, against the New York City Department of Education alleging Title IX and federal disability law claims on behalf of four students who were sexually assaulted in New York City schools and experienced trauma-related disabilities as a result.
- Launched the Healing-Centered Schools Working Group, a group of parents, students, educators, advocates, and providers who developed and published the Community Roadmap to Bring Healing-Centered Schools to the Bronx. The New York City Department of Education has adopted recommendations included in the Roadmap.
- Facilitated medical-legal partnerships with Vibrant Emotional Health and Lincoln Hospital’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Katrina has stayed on at Bronx Legal Services as a staff attorney. She continues representing students through her medical-legal partnerships, and continues to expand her community advocacy efforts.
If you deny a person or a community access to education, you deny them a voice and the resources to advocate for themselves, their rights, and a society that recognizes their dignity.
Katrina Feldkamp /
Equal Justice Works Fellow