Thank you to Equal Justice America for the opportunity to begin my legal career providing trauma-informed immigration services through a fellowship at Ayuda. Lack of access to legal representation remains one of the greatest barriers to acquiring immigration status for too many people in the United States. EJA’s Legal Service Fellowship with Ayuda will increase access to quality representation for low-income immigrants in the DC area.
– Julia Rigal (Columbia Law School, J.D. 2021), EJA Immigration Fellow
Having recently moved to the United States to attend law school and begin my career, I developed a great interest in the various circumstances that lead people to leave their homeland and build a home in a new place, the ways in which they are able to do so, and the structural barriers that make it more difficult for many people than it should be. As an Equal Justice America Fellow at Ayuda, I aim to use my legal skills to work with clients as they confront the legal barriers to immigration.
I first began to understand the importance of legal immigration services in my home country of France. After obtaining my undergraduate degree, I interned with an immigration attorney who was dedicated to increasing access to immigration status as a way of defending human rights. In 2018, I worked at Équipes d’Action contre le Proxénétisme (“Action Against Sex Trafficking”), a nonprofit organization in Paris that provided holistic services to survivors of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, assisting clients with various legal and administrative proceedings, including immigration. I learned from clients how the lack of immigration status and work authorization had made them vulnerable to trafficking and how obtaining status was an essential step in their process of exiting the sex trade. I understood the crucial role of an immigration lawyer in guiding clients through government systems that not only fail to protect them, but oftentimes exacerbate their trauma.
Throughout law school, I have had the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge needed to represent clients on a wide range of immigration issues such as, asylum, the intersection between criminal and immigration laws, and removal defense. I am spending my final semester at Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative in New York City where I am providing trauma-informed immigration services to survivors of sex and labor trafficking. I have been working on a range of cases including family-based immigration, non-immigrant status, and adjustment of status cases.
I am excited to begin my legal career as an Equal Justice America Fellow at Ayuda, where I will have the opportunity to increase access to long-term immigration representation for clients in the Washington, D.C. area. My background and language skills will allow me to provide services to clients in French, Spanish, and English and to expand Ayuda’s provision of services to French-speaking immigrant communities. I look forward to working at a holistic services organization that understands the complex and intersecting needs of clients and provides a wide range of services including immigration representation.
Ayuda Welcomes Julia Rigal
"Ayuda is extremely grateful to Equal Justice America for sponsoring Julia Rigal to serve as a Fellow at Ayuda. Julia’s fellowship and the experience she already brings to the role will expand our capacity to serve low-income immigrants in the DC area. We look forward to working with Julia as she further develops her expertise and experience and provides quality legal services to immigrants not only during her fellowship but throughout her career that follows.”
–Paula Fitzgerald, Executive Director
“We are thrilled to welcome Julia Rigal to Ayuda as an Equal Justice America fellow. Julia brings unique experience as a first year fellow/staff attorney, having already spent not only various internships with other similar legal services providers for immigrants in the New York area but also spending the bulk of her last semester in law school interning with a fantastic immigration legal services nonprofit in New York. We know that Julia will immediately expand our capacity to serve low-income immigrants in the DC area, and we cannot wait to work alongside her to continue serving our clients who need representation now as much as (if not more than) ever.”
–Katharine Clark, Immigration Managing Attorney (MD)
“Hosting an EJA fellow makes such a difference to our team and to our clients. By supporting a young attorney starting out their legal career serving low-income immigrants, EJA is helping ensure that we close the access-to-justice gap, provide much-needed legal representation, and foster a passion for public service that will carry through the fellow’s career. We’re so grateful for this opportunity to both increase our ability to serve our prospective clients and to play a role in developing the superstar public interest lawyers of tomorrow!”
–Joshua Doherty, Managing Attorney, DC Immigration at Ayuda
“Julia is going to make an immediate and lasting difference to Ayuda’s clients and our legal team. We are so excited about her skills in three different languages and her deep experience already as a law student serving immigrant survivors of trauma, including human trafficking. We look forward to helping Julia take her first steps as a legal services attorney and providing her the training, mentorship and support that she needs so that she can thrive while providing our clients with the highest quality legal services. With EJA’s support, and the talent of our current and former EJA fellows, we are able to provide critical representation to so many low-income immigrants whom we could not otherwise serve due to capacity constraints. Now, more than ever, Ayuda is grateful for EJA’s support.”
–Laurie Ball Cooper, Legal Director at Ayuda
“My two-year EJA Fellowship at Ayuda went above and beyond my expectations for my first job out of law school. I was able to serve a diverse group of clients in a wide variety of immigration matters and receive top-notch supervision from passionate and brilliant attorneys. I am excited that Ayuda, a new attorney, and additional clients will all be able to benefit from this next EJA Fellowship.”
–Kelly Hii, Staff Attorney and former EJA Fellow at Ayuda