Spotlight on Women Volunteers
Women make up roughly 70 percent of the Immigration Justice Campaign network—powering a huge portion of our work for immigration justice. Today we’d like to introduce you to two of them.
Juliana Madaki is an attorney in private practice in Louisville, KY. She went to law school as a nontraditional student following a long career as an aircraft engineer.
“I always thought I would be a tax attorney,” said Juliana. She discovered an interest in immigration law after meeting some members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) at a conference. “When I joined AILA, I knew nothing about immigration law,” she said. “I found the best way to learn was the Immigration Justice Campaign.”
Juliana has now been a volunteer attorney with the Justice Campaign since 2019. Most recently, she worked with a man from Nicaragua. With Juliana’s support, the man’s scheduled day of deportation became the day he was released to stay with his brother in the United States.
“Volunteering allows me to create the world I want to live in,” says Juliana. “I’ve really thought about the kind of person I want to be. And I feel that volunteering allows me to take steps to achieve the goals and create the life I want to live.”
Sylvia Shirk is a retired pastor living in Portland, OR. She learned Haitian Creole while working for a college’s International Studies program.
Sylvia was moved to volunteer for the Justice Campaign when she saw news about the abusive treatment of Haitian migrants by the U.S. Border Patrol. Working remotely from Oregon, Sylvia acted as an interpreter through phone and video calls with several people from Haiti who were being held in detention.
“It is maddening to see people detained for no reason,” she said. “It is a money-making business for the people who are contracted to hold these folks in detention.”
Sylvia saw how difficult it can be for people in detention to access their attorneys. “[The detention center is] not organized around making it convenient,” she said. Sometimes people had no choice but to answer very personal questions on a phone in a crowded hallway. “I was getting a glimpse of a system that totally disrespects the people who are detained.”
Sylvia, the attorneys, and their clients in detention tried to build human connections with each other when they could. On one of her assignments, Sylvia teamed up with a Haitian man in detention in Colorado and a volunteer attorney in New Jersey to fight for the man’s release. “By the time all this was finished, I was thinking that if I were in Colorado while he was being released, I would just want to take him out to dinner.”
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The American Immigration Council warns non-citizens to guard against spoofing phone calls from ill-intended individuals seeking to create panic among our immigrant community. To learn more, please go to scam.immigrationcouncil.org.