NY JFON at The Border

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NY JFON’s Asylum Attorney Alexis Duecker

Alexis brings an experienced background in immigration law to her position as Asylum Attorney at New York Justice for Our Neighbors. During law school, Alexis interned in the refugee resettlement department of Lutheran Children and Family Services (LCFS), where she assisted newly arrived refugees from around the world. She studied Refugee and Asylum Law and Immigration Litigation with the Honorable Steven Morley. Following law school, Alexis worked as a staff attorney for LCFS and in private practice, where she focused on asylum, bond, and provisional unlawful presence waivers. Alexis served as Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services in Philadelphia prior to joining NY-JFON. Alexis is a graduate of Barnard College in New York, New York and the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She speaks Spanish and German. 

Read about her experience at the border below:

In late May, I heard about an opportunity to volunteer with Arizona JFON to work with asylum seekers in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  The program, “Caminamos Juntos: Programa de Asilo” (We Walk Together: Asylum Program), provided in-person legal assistance to vulnerable asylum seekers residing at a shelter in Nogales.  As an asylum attorney with NY JFON, I was immediately interested.  This was an amazing opportunity to serve asylum seekers at a unique, earlier stage in their journeys, and I arranged to volunteer.  

The shelter in Nogales is run by an amazing staff of women, who treated the resident asylum seekers with respect, love, and compassion.  The Executive Director of AZ JFON, Alba Jaramillo, and Co-Founder and Staff Attorney, Ella Rawls, work closely with the shelter to serve the residents by providing legal support several times a week.  It was clear that the asylum seekers were grateful for AZ JFON’s work and for the support of the shelter, especially given their vulnerabilities while at the border.  I was inspired beyond measure by the work of the shelter staff and AZ JFON.  

“We Are All One Family”

The shelter residents, asylum seekers from Central and South America and Mexico, were a joy to work with.  The shelter houses primarily families and single women with children.  We spent time drafting their asylum declarations, which required them to share some of the most intimate and personal details of their lives during our very first meeting.  Each asylum seeker worked so hard on their statement, editing and reworking several drafts within one week.  They had to reexperience the deep trauma that had caused them to flee their homes and seek asylum in the first place, but they bravely did so because they understood how important the declarations were for their cases.

The women’s stories touched me deeply – there were many women who suffered horrific domestic abuse and who fled abusive partners.  We often had to pause while the women cried, and some struggled as they had never told their stories to anyone.  Through tears, they told me that their children were their source of strength.  Some told me that, although it was hard to discuss their stories, talking about their pain made it a little easier to bear.  I was glad to be able to provide them with some hope, as recent changes in asylum law will likely make domestic violence cases stronger.  

On the last day, we worked into the evening, trying to finish edits to everyone’s asylum declarations.  After wrapping up the workday, we took a picture with everyone at the shelter.  It was so emotional to witness this part in the asylum seeker’s journey- before they enter the United States, when they do not know what to expect once they enter. 

I am grateful to National JFON for this opportunity, to the shelter staff and AZ JFON for the work they do, and to the courageous, inspirational asylum seekers who shared their stories with me.  I wish them well on the next steps in their journey to asylum.

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