Equal Justice Works Names Second Fellow from BU Law Class of 2014
Elizabeth Hasse (’14) will advocate for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence at the Tahirih Justice Center
Each year, the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellowship competition “selects qualified and passionate lawyers who have developed new and innovative legal projects that can impact lives and serve communities in desperate need of legal assistance.” Elizabeth Hasse (’14) is the second member of her class—along with Elizabeth McIntyre--to be awarded one of the prestigious fellowships, making this the fourth consecutive year that a member of BU Law’s graduating class has been named a fellow. Hasse will begin her fellowship in September 2014, working at the Tahirih Justice Center in Houston, TX.
The EJW Fellowship Program is designed to promote partnerships between public interest lawyers, nonprofit organizations, law firms, and donors to provide legal assistance to underserved communities. Each year, 45-55 two-year fellowships are awarded through a highly competitive application process, providing financial support for the qualified and passionate young lawyers to pursue careers in public interest law.
The Tahirih Justice Center “works to protect immigrant women and girls seeking justice in the United States from gender-based violence,” providing them with legal assistance, and “empowering them to achieve justice and equality.” Hasse spent the summer after her second year of law school working as a legal intern at Tahirih’s DC office and is excited about the opportunity to work with the attorneys in the Houston office, from whom she expects to learn a lot.
“The most important things that I have learned in law school have been from the attorneys who supervised me in my internships, volunteer opportunities, and clinic,” she says. “I can’t imagine a better place than Tahirih to learn more about representing survivors of violence.”
Hasse’s goal for her fellowship is “to reach those immigrant women and girls who are eligible for relief from deportation, but whom Tahirih is currently unable to help. This includes women who are detained and girls who were previously detained and have been released to the custody of family members or friends in Houston.”
Part of Hasse’s project involves working with other attorneys interested in pro bono work to train them to represent this underserved population. “Pro bono opportunities are an essential element of an EJW project,” she says, “because when law firms or corporations decide to sponsor a fellow, it is usually because they are interested in participating in the project. Training and educating pro bono attorneys on how to represent underrepresented populations is one of the ways that EJW seeks to create change that will last beyond the two years of the fellowship.”
For Hasse, creating lasting change has been a goal for many years, and her fellowship will not be the first time that she has worked to empower others to improve their lives. Before enrolling in law school, she spent two years in the Peace Corps, training Nicaraguans in community organization, microcredit groups, food processing, appropriate technology, gardening, and the management of small businesses.
“My time in Nicaragua was an incredibly formative experience,” recalls Hasse. “I learned to appreciate the opportunities that I have had, and I became determined to continue to use my skills to help others when I returned to the U.S.”
Because of her experience in the Peace Corps, “working with immigrants in the U.S. was a natural transition. My experience with the socio-economic conditions and the cultural differences in Nicaragua has made me better able to understand where my immigrant clients are coming from, and I think it has helped me to be a better advocate for them.”
Hasse’s passion for public interest continued during her law school years. She is a Public Interest Scholar. During the summer after her first year, she was a legal intern for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), where she worked with unaccompanied minors who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. She continued to volunteer with KIND throughout her second year. She participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic during her second and third years. She spent two of her spring breaks on pro bono trips, one to Harlingen, TX, to work with ProBAR, and another to Miami, FL to work with Americans for Immigrant Justice.
During her time at BU Law, Hasse has worked with several mentors who have influenced her profoundly. One, immigration law lecturer David McHaffey (’95) was the catalyst for her choice of career path. “I thought I might want to get into immigration law when I came to law school, but I knew for sure that that was what I wanted to do when I heard David speak during my first semester of 1L about his career as an immigration attorney.”
McHaffey connected Hasse with the PAIR Project, where she used her Spanish skills to interpret for a pro bono attorney from Ropes & Gray, who was representing a survivor of domestic violence in her asylum case. “That was my first experience working with a survivor of gender-based violence, and it made me aware of the great need for this type of work.”
Hasse also cites Clinical Associate Professor Judith Diamond (’74), her supervisor in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, as an extremely influential mentor. “She has guided me through many different types of cases and has taught me so much about representing clients. Her experience and her confidence in me have allowed me to learn and to grow, and I am incredibly grateful for her support.”
Although the work Hasse will be doing for the next two years will be daunting, the thing she is most nervous about is the heat and humidity in Houston. As for what she’ll be doing, Hasse says, “Working with survivors of violence can be emotionally draining, but it also makes my work feel so worthwhile that I can’t imagine doing anything else. My clients are so strong, and they inspire me to work hard to help them achieve their goal of gaining legal status in the U.S.”
Reported by Sara Womble
March 25, 2014