Kelly Hii

EJA Launches Kelly Hii’s ‘Dream Career’ as Attorney Fighting for Immigrants’ Rights

In News by david.landis

Kelly HiiThanks to Equal Justice America, I landed my dream career right out of law school. In 2018, as I was finishing my third year at Georgetown, I was awarded a generous two-year fellowship to work with Ayuda’s Immigration Legal team.

Ayuda is a non-profit organization that provides legal, social, and language access services to low-income immigrants in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I was so excited to work alongside brilliant and passionate attorneys, protecting and promoting the rights of immigrants, many of whom fled persecution in their home countries or faced violence and trafficking here in the United States.

I first became interested in immigrants’ rights in college when I volunteered to teach English and lead an after-school children’s reading program for immigrant families in my hometown.

Through this program, I got to know many of the immigrant families in my community as they shared their stories with me. I was inspired by the resilience and strength of the parents, who had gone to such great lengths to provide safety and security for their children.

I realized that these families still faced many barriers to successfully navigating the U.S. legal system and were unable to fully thrive as a result. I decided to go to law school because I felt that the law could be a powerful tool to help vulnerable, marginalized and oppressed populations gain access to the justice they deserve.

My two years as an Equal Justice America Fellow at Ayuda went far above and beyond my expectations. Right away, I felt like I was where I was meant to be. I had the privilege of working with some of the most kind-hearted and sincere clients on a diverse range of cases.

  • I was able to prevent the wife of a U.S citizen army veteran and mother of four U.S. citizen children from being deported.
  • I was able to petition for a trafficking survivor, her husband, and four of her children to become lawful permanent residents.
  • I was able to file a case in federal district court which resulted in a much-needed work permit being granted to my client who is a single mother and domestic violence survivor.
  • I was able to help two young children receive humanitarian parole so they could immigrate to the United States with their mother who was fleeing violence and gang threats in their home country.
  • I was able to advocate for a strong and determined survivor of domestic violence to become a U.S. citizen. One of my favorite memories was when she texted me a photo of herself beaming and holding an American flag after her citizenship oath ceremony. Beneath the photo she texted, “God blessed America.” That really summarizes the way I see all of our clients- as true blessings and valuable members of our communities.

Before I knew it, my EJA Fellowship was quickly coming to an end. When Ayuda announced that they were hiring for a staff attorney, I applied for the position right away. My experience as an Equal Justice America Fellow at Ayuda gave me a unique perspective into the day-to-day challenges of this work and provided me an opportunity to grow in the professional and personal skills needed to be a successful advocate.

I still remember the phone call from our legal director offering me the position like it was yesterday. I do not even think I let her finish her sentence before I excitedly accepted without hesitation.

I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to continue to help clients access justice and transform their lives. As a staff attorney, I have been able to take on more cases and am working to improve my advocacy skills.

Every day I am inspired by my colleagues and my clients as we fight for equal justice for our marginalized immigrant neighbors. I want to give a huge thank you to all those who made my fellowship possible. Your generosity has been multiplied into so many lives, including mine. I hope we will be able to positively impact many more lives to come, especially as Ayuda welcomes EJA interns this summer and another EJA post-graduate Fellow beginning this fall.

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