Two from Columbia Law School Selected as Immigrant Justice Corps Fellows

Faiza W. Sayed '12 and Katherine J. Park '14 Will Offer Legal Assistance to Immigrants Fighting Deportation in Partnership with Leading New York City Non-Profits

New York, May 21, 2014—Recent Columbia Law School graduate and judicial clerk Faiza W. Sayed ’12 and third-year student Katherine J. Park ’14 have been named to the inaugural class of Justice Fellows by the Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC), the country’s first fellowship program dedicated to meeting the need for high-quality legal assistance for immigrants seeking citizenship and fighting deportation.

Inspired by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the IJC launched earlier this year to address a growing problem in New York City and across the country—inadequate representation for detained immigrants. In New York City, 60 percent of such immigrants do not have attorneys by the time their cases are completed.
IJC matches recent law school and college graduates with New York City’s leading non-profit legal services providers and community-based organizations. There, the fellows will offer a broad range of immigration assistance, including naturalization, deportation defense, and affirmative applications for asylum seekers, juveniles, and victims of crime, domestic violence, or human trafficking.
“The IJC is an important innovation because it allows talented law school and college graduates to provide much needed legal assistance to immigrants who would otherwise go unrepresented,” said Ellen P. Chapnick, dean for Columbia Law School’s Social Justice Initiatives, which helps place students and alumni in public interest careers. “I am very proud that Faiza and Katherine will be able to contribute their passion, talent, and Columbia Law School education to this valuable project and look forward to continuing the relationship in the future.”
The fellowships allow Sayed and Park to continue immigration-related work they pursued at Columbia Law School. Park, recognized as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar for superior academic performance, was vice president of the student group Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and spent this semester representing detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey under the supervision of Elora Mukherjee in the Law School’s new Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Park also interned at the New York Asian Women’s Center, The Legal Aid Society, The Bronx Defenders, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among other placements.
Park said she feels compelled to help people who try to make their way to this country as her Korean family did.
“I’m interested in immigration law because my story is pretty much unremarkable,” she said. “Millions of Americans have identical or very similar stories to my family.”
Sayed also was inspired by personal experience. Her family emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan by way of Canada and benefitted from the legal assistance offered by a non-profit organization.
“As someone who grew up immersed in a community of immigrants, I know that helping people transition to valid legal status is the most direct way to fight inequality and poverty,” Sayed said. “I decided to pursue a career in public interest law so that I could have a positive impact within my own community.”
At Columbia Law School, Sayed was honored for her academic achievements as a Harlan Fiske Stone and James Kent Scholar. She spent a semester working for The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Unit as part of the Law School’s Immigration Defense Externship and also interned at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. After graduating in 2012, she worked as a Kirkland & Ellis Fellow at HER JUSTICE, representing South Asian survivors of domestic violence before taking her present position clerking for U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York.
Immigrant Justice Corps Justice Fellowships run for two or three years. Justice Fellows represent clients with the most complex cases under the supervision of experienced attorneys at their host organization. The fellows also meet bi-weekly for professional development, skills training, case sharing, and other programmatic activities to cultivate a network of well-trained attorneys committed to ensuring access to justice for immigrants. The IJC was designed in part by Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and a lecturer at the Law School.
“The IJC is a phenomenal organization launched by Judge Katzmann,” said Mukherjee, who directs Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and will join the full-time faculty as an associate clinical professor of law on July 1. “I am proud that two of our graduates are in the inaugural class of fellows. Through the Immigrants' Rights Clinic and IJC, we are training the next generation of leaders in immigrants' rights.”
Columbia Law School offers a variety of opportunities for students interested in immigration advocacy. Under Mukherjee’s direction, the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic launched earlier this year to provide high-quality legal representation to immigrants detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center and another New Jersey facility, Delaney Hall. In addition to representing individuals, the clinic collaborates with local and national immigrants’ rights organizations on regulatory and legislative reforms, impact litigation, grassroots advocacy, and strategic planning. Students at the Law School can also participate in the Immigration Defense Externship and the Undocumented and Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth Externship, which helps children who have been apprehended at the U.S. border without traditional caregivers.