Posted by: Laura John | January 2, 2013

New York, New York

I want to wake up in that city
That never sleeps
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the list
Head of the heap
King of the hill

It’s up to you
New York, New York

View of Manhattan from the Empire State Building

View of Manhattan from the Empire State Building

I said goodbye to 2012 in a trendy bar on the Upper East Side with new friends, Frank Sinatra’s classic ‘New York, New York’ and the hope that the new year would bring with it more positive experiences in this city that never sleeps.

Adjusting to life in New York has been a rewarding and challenging experience – downtown trains take me to work, uptown trains take me several kilometers away from work, snow is fun and pretty until the ice hits your face and melts in your hair, and bagels are the best for breakfast.

I have spent the last few weeks interning with Human Rights First (HRF) in their Refugee Protection Program. In my first week, I assisted with an intake interview for an asylum seeker from Nepal seeking protection on the basis of his political opinion. During the three hour interview, we spoke about the difficulties he had experienced in his home country and why he feared returning there. After the interview, I drafted a submission outlining his claim and referring to independent country reports that supported his story. If his claim is considered strong and credible by the attorneys at HRF, he will be referred to a law firm in New York who will represent him pro bono in immigration proceedings.

This program, the Asylum Legal Representation Program, connects asylum seekers with free legal representation and is absolutely vital to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in the legal system have access to justice. This is particularly important when an asylum seeker has been placed in removal proceedings, since these court proceedings are conducted on an adversarial basis with the U.S. Government included as a party to the case. In these hearings, the U.S. Government will argue that the asylum seeker is not eligible for asylum and should be removed from the country.

Since that first intake interview, I have met with asylum seekers from a range of countries including Guinea and Russia. It is always humbling to hear their stories and see their determination to create a better life for themselves and their families. I am looking forward to the challenges that the new year will bring and am hopeful that the work we do at HRF will help make 2013 the year that many asylum seekers receive the best gift of all – a safe and secure home.

Hard at work at HRF

Hard at work at HRF


  1. […] First, and those with the strongest asylum claims are invited for a full intake interview (see my first blog for details). Although I would prefer to be able to find representation for all 15 of the asylum […]

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