BC Law third-year student Natali Soto has been selected to receive a 2017 Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) fellowship, one of 25 across the country.
“We are overjoyed that Natali will continue BC Law’s tradition of IJC Fellows and producing the next generation of strong and committed immigration advocates,” said Michelle Grossfield, BC Law’s Public Interest and Pro Bono Program director. “We know she will be an invaluable addition to the fellowship cohort and the many clients she will be serving over the next two years and beyond.”
IJC’s program is the country’s first fellowship program wholly dedicated to meeting immigrants’ need for high-quality legal assistance, according to an IJC press release. Those who receive the fellowship will represent immigrants fighting deportation and seeking lawful status and citizenship. The fellowship was originally conceived of by Robert A. Katzmann, chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and incubated by the Robin Hood Organization in 2013.
“These remarkable advocates will inject the whole system of immigrant justice with new energy,” said Judge Katzmann. “The thousands they will serve will be represented by a good lawyer, well-trained and well-supervised, and will not be prey to those who take advantage of immigrants.”
Soto said that her initial interest in immigration law stemmed from the migration story of her parents, who came to the US from the Dominican Republic to seek better opportunities for their family. “When it came time to enroll in law school, I chose Boston College Law School specifically because of the host of opportunities its expansive immigration law curriculum could provide me,” she said. Soto interned during her 1L summer at the Victim Rights Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for sexual assault survivors’ rights involving immigration, housing, employment, privacy, and education. She worked closely with the immigration attorney on U Visa and VAWA cases and developed a specialized interest in gender-based violence.
“My passion for immigration law continued to grow as a student attorney at the Boston College Immigration Clinic,” Soto said. “Under Professor Mary Holper’s skilled supervision, I represented undocumented immigrants in a wide range of cases including Special Immigrant Juvenile status, bond hearings, U Visa, and asylum cases.”
Soto will be working after graduation as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project, which is dedicated to providing legal aid to immigrant victims of gender-based violence. “Working at an organization like Sanctuary has long been a dream of mine, and I couldn’t have done it without the opportunities that BC Law has provided me.”
The new class of fellows brings a wealth of immigration experience. They are graduates of the leading law schools with top immigration programs. All of the new Justice Fellows are bilingual—92 percent of the class speak Spanish; in addition, members of the 2017 class speak Cantonese, Czech, French, Korean, Mandarin, and Polish. Approximately half of them are first-generation immigrants themselves.
The fellows will serve for two years in and around New York City—including in the lower Hudson Valley, and on Long Island and northern New Jersey—as well as in New Haven, Connecticut, and Karnes, Texas. They will be placed at top legal services agencies, where they will join the 2016 class of 25 Justice Fellows already in the field. In August 2016, IJC graduated its inaugural class of 25 Justice Fellows and 96 percent secured employment in the immigration field.
“The 2017 Fellows will be joining the immigration bar at a moment in time of immense crisis in immigration and their work will make a tremendous difference between an immigrant remaining in the United States with family and deportation,” said Jojo Annobil, the executive director of the program.
Immigrant Justice Corps also employs Community Fellows, college graduates who perform immigration screening and assist with simpler application preparation. Applications for the next class of Community Fellows are being accepted now at justicecorps.org.