2022 has been such an instrumental year for Innovation Law Lab’s growth. As 2022 draws to a close, we’d like to take a moment to highlight all of the amazing people who have joined the Innovation Law Lab team this year. We are so thrilled by the incredible skills, experience and energy that each and every one of them brings. They’ve already made invaluable contributions to our mission to make our society more inclusive and equitable, and in the fight against the immigration detention and deportation machine.
Lane is the child of immigrant parents whose years of experience working in the nonprofit social services sector has led them to think deeply about how society is structured. Growing up as someone who was able to access citizenship made them recognize their privileged position, and want to leverage it in order to create change for others who have less privilege. They believe if we see something that isn’t fair, then it’s on us to make it fair. Lane excels in supporting organizations behind the scenes, and they are certainly doing that at Innovation Law Lab. They are excited to continue to take part in creating systemic change and ending carceral violence through abolition study and work.
“My immigration story is one that is privileged. I acknowledge that and the need to break down barriers that others are facing. That is what has drawn me to justice work.”
Imogene Mankin (she/her), Staff Attorney, based in Oregon
The daughter of an immigrant, Imogene was drawn to immigration law to support families navigating the pain and injustice of the U.S. immigration system. She quickly noticed how the U.S. criminal systems and immigration systems worked together to dehumanize, punish and deport undocumented immigrants and especially Black immigrants. During and after law school, Imogene worked at public defender offices, defending people incarcerated by both the criminal and immigration systems. Imogene is excited to be able to work directly representing people and also on impact litigation that strikes at the anti-Blackness of the U.S. immigration system in Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden.
“All things I’m working on now are connected to what I was excited about when I started my career. I am now working on a direct BIA appeal for someone detained in Georgia. I am also working on program design for the rollout of our universal representation program for Oregonians detained by ICE.”
During graduate school, Allison was inspired by intersectional feminist writings to think about how power is distributed in society. She went to the Dominican Republic with the desire to do more hands-on work around literacy development, but day-to-day reality was also imbued with the issue of immigration due to the proximity of the border with Haiti. She saw how people perceived as Black faced anti-Haitian discrimination. In law school, Allison decided to focus on immigration, realizing that injustice was also baked into the U.S. immigration and border system. Through an internship at RMIAN, she learned there was a detention center in a suburb of Denver that most people in the area didn’t know about, and which was the site of massive human rights abuses. Since then she has had extensive experience with other organizations and as a judicial clerk. Allison is excited to be part of the visionary work of Law Lab’s Anticarceral Legal Organizing program as well as our litigation and other legal work.
“I have an academic background with a lens of examining power as distributed in horrible ways according to race, gender, sexuality, disability etc. So when I apply that lens to immigration, I see a systemic problem that direct representation alone is not enough to address. That’s why I built up skills to do litigation and policy work as well, which eventually brought me to Innovation Law Lab.”
Adrianna, a child of immigrant parents whose father is a farmworker, has been motivated to work in immigration law since high school. In college she wrote a thesis on border imperialism and the forced servitude of Mexican immigrants in the United States. Adrianna’s experiences volunteering with immigrant rights organizations reinforced her understanding of the unjust nature of the U.S. immigration system. She decided to continue this work and we are glad she has joined Innovation Law Lab, where she is working on both Equity Corps of Oregon and Oregon Worker Relief.
“I always try to think about how to provide support for directly impacted people without supporting the horrible structures of the U.S. immigration system.”
Jeff’s dedication to immigrant rights grew out of his love for teaching. As a teacher, Jeff worked with many immigrant students, some of who were undocumented. In his efforts to support kids who wanted to attend college, the intersection between immigration status and educational opportunity became very clear to him. After deciding to attend law school, Jeff worked and volunteered with various immigration rights groups, including Innovation Law Lab through our Defend Asylum clinics, where he reflected on Law Lab Limited Legal Services Program Manager Aliya Naim’s framing of the way the U.S. immigration system treats immigrants: with undeserved hostility. Jeff now meets with clients through Equity Corps of Oregon and enjoys seeing people at the office in Portland and working directly on their immigration matters.
While working with Tahirih Justice Center I read the book “Do They Hear You When You Cry” by Fauziya Kassindja, a woman from Togo who sought asylum in the U.S. but ended up detained in New Jersey for a year and a half and whose case ended up setting precedent. That was the first time I learned much about immigration detention.”
Ali studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she honed her Spanish skills and became interested in the impact of migration on identity as she interviewed internally displaced of Indigenous people for her theses. She worked with an immigrant rights nonprofit after college to put her Spanish to use and in law school she joined the immigration clinic, which she loved and which opened her eyes to the barriers to justice in our immigration system. Since then, Ali hasn’t shied away from widening her experience in the immigration field, working as a staff attorney representing survivors of gender-based violence, mentoring attorneys on pro bono cases, and most recently, teaching and supervising law students at the Georgetown Law asylum clinic. Her dedication, teaching and supervisory experience, and broad range of skills make her a perfect fit for her role at Innovation Law Lab, supervising multiple attorneys who are providing direct legal services through Equity Corps of Oregon.
“I’ve worked at nonprofits where we’ve had to turn down so many cases due to limited capacity. It is refreshing to work in a universal representation program where we can serve everyone who meets the economic eligibility requirements regardless of the type of case.
When Jemila first began her involvement in the legal profession, her goal was to work in any kind of law firm. That law firm happened to be an immigration law firm, and she fell in love with the work. She enjoyed interacting with clients and learning about their lives. The daughter of immigrants, Jemila now has a strong commitment to immigrant rights and social justice. While in law school at Lewis and Clark, she worked as a law clerk at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services and Immigration Counseling Services, where she assisted clients on their various immigration cases. Jemila is now providing direct legal representation for people through Equity Corps of Oregon, including working on asylum applications.
“When I first started working at an immigration law firm, for the first few months I didn’t think it was for me. But as time passed I fell in love with work and just kept coming back.”
Katie became interested in immigration law in a roundabout way. While working for a family business for the better part of a decade, Katie volunteered with refugees in her community in Pennsylvania. She recalls early on spending time with a family from Myanmar and working with them to assist in resolving necessities that arose. While in law school, Katie volunteered with Al Otro Lado, an experience she says offered her a different perspective about how inhumane our immigration system is. Her volunteer work solidified her commitment to working in nonprofit services for immigrants and refugees. She also first learned of Law Lab through the technology used while volunteering, and Law Lab’s combination of technology with law and direct services with organizing and advocacy are part of what drew her to the organization. At Law Lab, Katie provides direct legal services through Equity Corps of Oregon.
“I enjoy working with immigrants and refugees because it allows me to use my law education to support people being oppressed by the government. I’ve also always loved getting to know people from different places, and I love being able to do that in my direct representation work.”
Maria’s initial interest in working with refugees was sparked while learning about mass atrocities outside the U.S. that were displacing people, some of whom end up migrating to the United States. That interest led her to Annunciation House, an organization on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso that provides shelter, foments education and advocates. Their model of radical accompaniment and solidarity is very meaningful to Maria. She is an interdisciplinary-minded person and has trained and engaged in both legal services and social work. For example, Maria worked in Camden as a social worker with domestic violence survivors who were mostly immigrant and Latina women. Family unity is an important underlying principle for her, made strong by her social and legal work with families separated under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. Beyond legal and social work, Maria believes in the importance of community power and organizing, especially when it comes to immigration, where politics is always involved and nothing is by the book.
“Being at the border, I was confronted with the reality of the oppression of the U.S. immigration system. I lived alongside and cared for people facing that oppression. That experience drives me to this day.”
Julissa, currently a student at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, has been advocating for community members’ wellbeing since from a very young age. Born in Mexico, Julissa moved to Oregon as a child and experienced firsthand the challenges of arriving to a new place. She quickly turned to supporting others, though, volunteering in high school to accompany transfer students as a peer, advocate and sometimes even translator. Even when she was little, Julissa would joke that she would become a lawyer to help others, and she plans to go to law school to make that vision a reality. She previously worked with Causa Oregon and is familiar with many of the community based immigrant rights organizations because she was a navigator for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, work she continues to support in her new position at Innovation Law Lab.
“Working with Causa helped me see how much work you have to put in to make a difference, but in the end, seeing people happy is so rewarding.”