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April 03, 2023

Leveraging Existing Skills to Help Clients in Need

By Pro Bono Counsel Stephanie M Baez

ABA Immigration Justice Project (IJP) volunteer Lisa Schreter’s experience and dedication help promote access to justice for asylum seekers.


The ABA Immigration Justice Project (IJP) is grateful to volunteer Lisa Schreter for her work on behalf of IJP clients. Lisa is a long-time defender of refugee and migrant rights, with extensive experience in international humanitarian law and the social services sector. She began volunteering with IJP as a pro bono Fordham Law Extern in June 2022, and continued her volunteer work for eight months. Her work was instrumental to supporting IJP’s mission of promoting access to justice for immigrants and asylum seekers.


During her time as a volunteer, Lisa worked closely with IJP’s Pro Bono Manager, Ambreen Walji, on various projects to assist asylum-seeking clients who were in immigration detention or recently released from detention facilities. Her work included providing detailed country conditions research that was specifically tailored for IJP’s clients. For example, Lisa conducted research to help a Colombian client who was being held in detention alongside members of a gang that had been persecuting him in Colombia, on account of his membership in the LGBT community and his refusal to join the gang. Her work involved reviewing Spanish-language resources, such as public policy statements, local news reports, and academic reports.


Lisa also worked closely with Ambreen to draft a declaration for a Nicaraguan client seeking asylum based on his political opinions. The client had been active in numerous Nicaraguan political opposition groups throughout his lifetime, and he fled to the United States after the Ortega government crackdown in 2018. He sought asylum as a pro se litigant and was not successful; he was ordered removed and returned by ICE to Nicaragua. Upon deplaning in Managua, he was immediately detained by Nicaraguan police and transferred to the notorious Chipote prison. After his release from prison, he fled Nicaragua again and is now requesting asylum based on his most recent persecution.


Ambreen began representing the client when he was detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, and she helped him secure release from detention on bond. Ambreen continued to represent the client in his ongoing request for asylum before the immigration court, partnering with Lisa to draft the client’s declaration. Lisa interviewed the client multiple times in Spanish, his native language, so that she could build a relationship with him and gather the information needed for his declaration. In addition to helping with the declaration, Lisa conducted country conditions research and found Spanish-language primary resources to support the client’s claims of persecution based on his political opinions as part of the Nicaraguan opposition party. Ambreen noted that Lisa’s work was instrumental to ensuring that the declaration was accurate and detailed. “Lisa assisted me by meeting with my client and me on evenings and corresponding with me on weekends regarding research she was completing, all to further the client’s chances of success in his asylum claim.”


Lisa’s “engagement and dedication made it clear she has a long-standing interest in this work,” said Ambreen. Lisa came to IJP with a wealth of experience, including, most recently, consulting for the Afghan Legal Empowerment Portal (A.L.E.P) at The Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, where she is pursuing her J.D. Prior to her work at the Leitner Center, Lisa supervised refugee resettlement for HIAS NY and consulted for the New York Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). Her past experience has involved work in Central and South America, Haiti, and Southeast Asia. The IJP team “leveraged and made use of my previous experience,” said Lisa, explaining that one of the most valuable parts of her volunteer experience was the way the IJP team incorporated her existing skillset to support IJP’s mission and clients. “I was given the opportunity to make use of the skills I had to help people in need, and to develop new skills throughout my volunteer experience.”  


IJP is grateful to Lisa for her commitment and assistance over the course of eight months.  Other volunteers interested in using their skills and background to help immigrants in need, while also learning new skills and areas of law, can express interest in volunteering with IJP (for San Diego-based volunteer experiences) or in volunteering with one of the Commission on Immigration’s other projects (for opportunities nationwide).