Scripps College alumna Kayla Lemus ’16, is one of 10 elite college graduates chosen to serve as a fellow advocating for vulnerable immigrants in the country’s first such program wholly dedicated to meeting immigrants’ need for high-quality legal assistance. She will be located at Brooklyn Public Library as a representative of the Immigrant Justice Corps, which places the young professionals in top legal services agencies and community based organizations to help serve high-immigrant populations. The 2017 fellows will serve for two years in and around New York City and are joining the 2016 class of 11 Community Fellows already in the field.
Lemus says her undergraduate experience as a Princeton in Latin America fellow for a nonprofit in the Dominican Republic provided the impetus for her to continue working with immigrant communities. She was particularly interested in helping those struggling with issues of documentation, and felt her abilities could be best used at home in the U.S.
“As a first-generation American—the daughter of Mexican immigrants—I knew I wanted a job where I could use my personal experiences to advocate for Latino immigrant communities within the U.S. context,” Lemus explained.
Her interest in law began with the courses she took in Latin American & Caribbean Studies at Scripps College, she said. “That interest grew tremendously in the Dominican Republic, when I witnessed firsthand how many Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent not only had little access to legal representation after having their citizenship retroactively stripped from them, but how that racial profiling and the government’s lack of transparency on how to legally stay in the country made many feel powerless against a system that claimed to enforce justice.”
Lemus applied for the Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship upon returning to the U.S., determined to use her Spanish language skills and knowledge gained from the fellowship to advocate for Latino communities challenged with similar circumstances in New York city.
“I am excited to be able to collaborate with lawyers to provide my clients with the best possible options to stay legally in the U.S., am thrilled to be an IJC Community Fellow, and also eager to explore a new field to see whether I would like to pursue a career in law in the near future.”
Immigrant Justice Corps also employs Justice Fellows, law graduates who represent immigrants fighting deportation and seeking lawful status and citizenship.