The Asian Bar Association of Washington would like to congratulate all of our scholarship and fellowship recipients for 2020. Please join us in congratulating:
Takuji Yamashita Scholarship Recipient: Upama KC
Upama is a 2L at Seattle University School of Law. Upama is originally from Nepal and moved to Washington when she was 13 years old. Her personal experience as a first-generation immigrant and volunteer serving immigrant populations instilled in her a passion for public service and a desire to help those in her community. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Law, Societies, and Justice from the University of Washington, Upama became a volunteer with the Refugee Women’s Alliance, tutoring recently immigrated Bhutanese refugees. That position inspired her to join AmeriCorps, during which, she worked with the Asian Counseling Referral Service (ACRS). Upon the conclusion of her service, she decided to stay with ACRS full time as a Citizenship Case Manager and then attend law school to further help the communities she served.
Sharon A. Sakamoto President’s Scholarship Recipient: Jenny Wu
Jenny is a 3L at Seattle University School of Law. Motivated by her experience growing up in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, she has consistently been involved with the API community and is committed to making an impact for marginalized communities. In law school, she has served as the school’s liaison to the ABAW and to the Minority and Justice Commission this past year, as the president of the Asian Pacific Islander Law Student Association in her 2L year, and as a fellow for the Access to Justice Institute. In the community, Jenny has consistently supported attorneys and clients as a volunteer at the ACRS and Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) legal clinics; worked as a research assistant to Professors Margaret Chon and Lorraine Bannai; and worked for the ACLU and Legal Voice.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship Recipient: Jacqueline Nguyen
Jacqueline Nguyen is a 1L at the University of Washington School of Law. Having grown up in a tight Vietnamese community in Seattle and having learned of her parents’ experiences as immigrants, Jacqueline has been an active contributor to the Vietnamese community and greater API community. Since high school, she has assisted the Hong Bang Language School, teaching children to read and write in Vietnamese. Jacqueline has also consistently been a resource for the Seattle Vietnamese Buddhist Association, annually volunteered for Maison Chance’s annual fundraiser, and worked with the Refugee Resettlement Office as an ESL tutor and with the ACLU as a Political Strategies Associate.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship Recipient: Yanfei Wang
Yanfei “Faye” Wang is a 3L at the University of Washington School of Law. Yanfei transferred to UW Law’s JD program after graduating from their LLM program. Yanfei was a licensed attorney in China and decided to attend law school and continue her legal career in the U.S. She is a strong proponent of mentorship and helping law students develop their networking skills; in her 1L year, she helped develop the framework for a career advancement program now implemented at UW Law. Outside of school, Yanfei volunteers for the ACRS legal clinic and China Tomorrow Education Foundation. She also serves as vice president and mentorship chair of the Seattle Chinese Bar Association.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship Recipient: Yejin Kim
Yejin “Vanessa” Kim is a 3L at Seattle University School of Law. Yejin moved from South Korea to Guam when she was 11 years old and to Seattle when she was 15 years old. Her passion to support immigrants was ignited by her personal experience and sustained by her professional experience. She is a strong believer in volunteerism, having volunteered with the Seattle Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs, Kids in Need of Defense, and Seattle Youth Traffic Court. For the past two summers, Yejin has also worked for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and, as part of a post-graduate fellowship after graduation, plans to partner with NWIRP to assist immigrants in removal proceedings and to provide education on policy changes, forms of relief, and protection from deportation, with a focus on family unity.
Spring Blossom Fellowship Recipient: Laura Kirk
Laura Kirk is a 2L and a concurrent Sustainable International Development L.L.M. student at the University of Washington School of Law. She is interested in immigration and humanitarian law and her commitment to serving women and immigrant populations dates back more than a decade. Prior to law school, Laura volunteered with the Peace Corps in Guatemala, where she worked alongside community leaders to empower youth, women, and service providers from indigenous communities. She then worked for several years in residential foster care directly serving unaccompanied immigrant and refugee minors in the Seattle area. Once she starts practicing law, Laura hopes to use the law as a tool to support community organizing and to fight systemic oppression.
The Asian Bar Association of Washington Student Scholarship Foundation (“ABAWSSF”) established the Spring Blossom Fellowship in 2018, with a generous donation from Lorraine Lee and John Felleisen and the ABAWSSF, to provide an annual grant to a law student working with a public interest/service organization during the summer to advance women and immigrant rights. The fellowship is named in honor of Chun Lan (“Spring Blossom”) Ng Woo, a Chinese immigrant and domestic violence survivor who faced great obstacles with courage and resilience.
Message from Laura:
I was honored to be selected as the second ABAW Spring Blossom Fellow for my work with immigrant women and survivors of violence during Summer 2020. I was a legal intern in the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)/Domestic Violence) Unit at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (“NWIRP”), a civil legal aid organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.
As a VAWA intern, I directly represented a small caseload of clients and their families who were all eligible for U visas, meaning they were undocumented survivors of crime who have cooperated with law enforcement and are eligible to apply for an immigration benefit. Congress created the U visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, NWIRP staff have been working entirely remotely since March 2020. My fellow NWIRP interns and I were the first cohort to complete a remote internship. This presented a plethora of new challenges. It was a big disappointment to miss out on face-to-face meetings with clients as well as the opportunity to learn from other attorneys in the collaborative office environment. Nevertheless, I am very proud to have served the immigrant community during such a trying time, when an anti-immigrant administration has taken advantage of a crisis to push their agenda, including closing borders and fast-tracking deportations.
The scope of representation during my ten-week internship included conducting meetings over the phone with clients and family members (mostly in Spanish) to gather information, explain processes, fill out forms, and draft declarations, as well as contacting additional agencies to request documentation and gather evidence. I submitted form I-918 supplement B’s (request for law enforcement agency certification of crime) for all of my clients and drafted forms I-918 (U visa), I-918 supplement A (request for qualifying family member), I-912 (request for fee waiver), I-192 (request for inadmissibility waiver), and I-765 (request for work authorization).
In order for their case to be granted, a U visa applicant needs to prove substantial harm or abuse, meaning a detailed declaration of the rape, domestic violence, or other crime committed against them, along with applicable medical or mental health treatment records. Many clients have tried to bury or forget the violence committed against them, so the process of applying can be deeply retraumatizing and harmful. I have prior training in trauma-informed care, so I did my best to make my clients’ experiences as healing and empowering as possible, rather than revictimizing, while gathering the required information. Empathic listening, calm, and compassion are imperative.
The U.S. immigration system is notoriously slow and unfair. There are far more people out there who need legal help than NWIRP has the capacity to provide. Thanks to the Spring Blossom fellowship, I was able to move some cases along and provide a glimmer of hope during a dark and difficult time for immigrant women and survivors of violence.