My name is Jane Vukmer, and I am a third-year student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. This summer, I worked as the Trans Asylum Fellow for Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker. The Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker legal partnership provides pro bono legal services to transgender asylum seekers who have been victimized, abused, tortured, and persecuted in their country of origin. I have had the great privilege to work on seventeen different asylum cases involving transgender women from Central America who fled their country due to persecution based on gender identity. I am particularly passionate about LGBTQ and immigrant rights because I identify as a lesbian woman, and like many Americans, my grandparents emigrated to the United States to seek protection and a better life. It has been tremendously rewarding to have a prominent role in enabling positive outcomes for women who need it most. Because of the generous work of the legal staff at Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker, these women are protected and have a renewed sense of hope for their lives.
This experience has also provided me with tremendous professional growth. I have had extensive exposure to nuanced areas of immigration law through drafting motions and briefs and preparing for master calendar hearings. I have observed how important good advocacy is and why it is vital immigrants have access to experienced and dedicated lawyers who understand the intricacies of the law. For example, one of our clients was placed into removal proceedings after her asylum status was purportedly revoked. The government issued her a notice to appear into deportation proceedings, but provided no basis for revocation of her asylum status. By conducting thorough research, strategizing with Ava, and presenting strong oral advocacy at her master calendar hearing, we compelled the government to file a motion to terminate proceedings within three weeks. The Immigration Judge granted it, and our client’s asylum status remains protected. She no longer fears imminent deportation. Because of the complexities of immigration law, strong advocacy is vital, and without it, our client could have been unjustly deported.
This summer, I also travelled to Phoenix, Arizona to accompany one of our clients to her master calendar hearing and to meet with three clients to draft their asylum declarations. It is amazing how the impact of the work here reaches far beyond Washington, DC. I am deeply humbled by my work as a fellow with Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker, and I will continue advocating for LGBTQ and immigrant rights.