This fall, Jessica Rouf (née Cornejo Mercado) 3L will become one of 28 Immigrant Justice Corps Fellows nationwide.
The prestigious two-year fellowship places recent law graduates in host organizations dedicated to supporting immigrants’ rights and representing those in need.
Beginning this September, Rouf will work full-time at Catholic Charities of New York, a nonprofit that runs legal advocacy programs for refugees and immigrants.
“For many of my future clients, it might be the first time they ever talk to a licensed attorney,” Rouf says. “Representation makes such a difference, especially with asylum cases. It’s often a determinative factor in the outcome of the case.”
Rouf previously interned with Catholic Charities as a 1L and 2L student. One of her first assignments was to interview and help write the affidavit of an asylum seeker who was fleeing persecution in his home country for being gay.
“I poured my all into the memo about his case,” she says. “I wanted to do the best job I possibly could.”
Rouf found a community at NYLS to support her growing interest in immigration law. As a 2L student, she participated in the Asylum Clinic, led by Professor Claire Thomas ’11, which represents refugees seeking safety in the United States.
“The clinic gave me a much greater understanding of the immigration system and the asylum process,” Rouf says.
She also took Immigration Law with Professor Lenni Benson, a national leader in the field, and is taking Refugee and Asylum Law this semester. During her 2L summer, she received NYLS’s Joseph Solomon Public Service Fellowship, which supported her internship at The Door, a legal services organization that serves young people. Swati Parikh, Executive Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Initiatives, helped Rouf plan her career path and coached her through mock interviews.
Having come to the United States from Peru at age 5, Rouf has a deep personal interest in advocating for other immigrants. She is a proud first-generation immigrant and first generation professional.
“This fellowship is significant, not only for me, but also for my family,” she says. “They helped propel me to where I am. This is for them.”
Read the announcement by the immigrant Justice Corps.