By Megan Jepson ‘24
This summer I worked at Vive, a program of Jericho Road Community Health Center, which is a shelter for people of all ages seeking asylum in the United States located on the east side of Buffalo. First, I would like to thank the donors of the Freudenheim Fellowship for their generosity and for giving me the opportunity to pursue this legal internship through the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program .
Vive struck a chord with me in many ways, particularly when it came to meeting everyone in the office who devotes time to helping these asylees pursue a better life. The legal office was full of kind, caring, thoughtful employees who went above and beyond to lend a helping hand. I met volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, and I was able to sit in on one of the English classes provided by the shelter. I was able to meet the cooks, the volunteers that help with the Canadian border, the case managers, the social workers, the medical workers, and everyone that contributes to making Vive such a special place.
Walking in on my first day, I was immediately excited to be a part of it. Right away I was able to sit in on client interviews, review asylum and employment authorization applications, and draft motions for court. Being able to shadow the supervising attorney gave me invaluable first-hand experience. I learned how to approach client intake interviews, and how to conduct ongoing meetings to help clients fill out the main portion of their asylum application. Once I had enough experience shadowing the supervising attorney and legal assistant, I was able to meet clients on my own. One of the things I was most fulfilled by this summer was helping a family fill out their entire asylum application, after meeting with them multiple times a week. It was a great feeling finishing the application, knowing they were one step closer to getting a court date, being able to apply for work permits, and hopefully being able to stay in America permanently.
I was also able to perform a lot of interesting research this summer. Getting updates on country conditions is an important part of submitting an asylum application, so I dedicated time to learning about how the political, economic, or social status of any given country was changing. I needed to find articles that supported certain claims of persecution that backed up what the client was detailing in their application. I spent time researching the crisis in Ukraine, particularly how Russia was advancing into the country. It was important to determine what options are available to Ukrainian refugees to get permanent status, not just temporary protected status once they arrive here.
Lastly, and more generally, I learned more about the details of immigration law in the United States and the practical application of it. I have previously visited and volunteered at refugee camps on the southern border in Texas, so working at the legal office here in Buffalo gave me a new perspective. People come to Vive from all over, many through the southern border, and I appreciated getting to hear about their journeys to New York. Working at Vive was an experience I will never forget, and I look forward to carrying the people I met and everything I learned with me through my career as an attorney.
Name: Megan Jepson ’24
Name of Fellowship: Freudenheim Fellowship
Location: Buffalo, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “I learned more about the details of immigration law in the United States and the practical application of it. I have previously visited and volunteered at refugee camps on the southern border in Texas, so working at the legal office here in Buffalo gave me a new perspective.”