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Supporting the Needs of Immigrant Communities During Disasters

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Photo of Andra Lehotay de León

Andra Lehotay de León, a 2L at Northeastern University School of Law and a 2021 Student Fellow in our Disaster Resilience Program, shares her summer of service experience, and discusses how her Equal Justice Works Fellowship helped to build her legal skills outside the classroom.

 This summer, I had the opportunity to serve as an Equal Justice Works Student Fellow in the Disaster Resilience Program while working at Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston. As a Student Fellow, I worked under the supervision of Equal Justice Works Fellow Maria Vazquez. I supported Maria’s project by assisting immigrants impacted by natural disasters apply for legal status in the United States. Throughout the 10 weeks I spent at Catholic Charities, I had the opportunity to learn about and work on a variety of immigration cases, including family petitions, waivers of unlawful presence bars, U-visa applications, and briefs in support of asylum applications.

Through this opportunity, I learned of the importance of disaster resilience-informed advocacy for immigrant clients. Because natural disasters disproportionately impact marginalized communities, it is very important that marginalized communities have access to pro bono legal services in the wake of disasters. Additionally, the goals of public interest immigration advocacy—such as family unity and sanctuary for refugees—are an essential part of building immigrant communities’ disaster resilience. Immigration attorneys also play an important role in informing immigrant communities about steps to take to prepare for natural disasters and with spreading awareness about resources available after disasters.

Because natural disasters disproportionately impact marginalized communities, it is very important that marginalized communities have access to pro bono legal services in the wake of disasters.

Andra Lehotay de León /
2021 Student Fellow
Disaster Resilience Program

While hosted at Catholic Charities, I improved my legal research and writing skills and learned valuable techniques for trauma-informed client interviewing. Additionally, by working under a Fellow, I gained excellent insight into the practical work that an Equal Justice Works Fellowship entails. Most significantly, this Student Fellowship solidified my commitment to serving as a public interest attorney upon graduation from law school. I am particularly interested in continuing my work in immigration law, specifically within communities frequently impacted by natural disasters.

I would highly recommend the Disaster Resilience Program to other law students! Not only did I gain valuable legal experience in public interest law, but I also built connections within my host organization and within the network of Disaster Resilience Program Fellows and Student Fellows.

If you are interested in helping communities prepare for and recover from disasters like Andra, apply to the Disaster Resilience Program by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 14, 2022. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit here.

This Student Fellowship solidified my commitment to serving as a public interest attorney upon graduation from law school. I am particularly interested in continuing my work in immigration law, specifically within communities frequently impacted by natural disasters.

Andra Lehotay de León /
2021 Student Fellow
Disaster Resilience Program

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow