VAAP will serve as a resource center to recruit, train, mentor, and support pro bono attorneys to provide free immigration services to asylum-seekers in Vermont.
Make a difference by helping us to provide asylum support and promote the rights of Vermont’s immigrant communities. Please join us by making a donation, providing pro bono legal services, or becoming a pro bono partner.
VAAP is a collaborative project between the State’s asylum support nonprofits, Vermont Law School’s Immigrant Assistance Clinic, and local attorneys. It aims to address the shortage of pro bono asylum support and promote the rights of immigrant communities in Vermont.
Vermont Asylum Assistance Project (VAAP) seeks to provide access to justice for asylum-seekers in Vermont by offering pro bono legal services and promoting the rights of the State’s immigrant communities.
VAAP aims to:
- provide asylum-seekers in Vermont with access to legal knowledge and services;
- educate and serve as a resource to attorneys who provide pro bono asylum legal services (support for asylum and ancillary work authorization applications)
- serve as a liaison between the State’s community support organizations for asylum seekers and pro bono attorneys; and
- advocate for State policies that promote the rights of asylum-seekers.
The world we envision, and toward which this project is a step, is a world in which all immigrants are represented by legal counsel and have equal access to the justice system regardless of race, citizenship, nationality, or limited means. To that end, Vermont Asylum Assistance Project aims to distribute information about the asylum system broadly and accessibly, serving as a pipeline between pro bono attorneys and clients that supports both sides. We strive to remove barriers to life with dignity for asylum seekers.
The number of people seeking asylum in the U.S. has nearly quintupled in the last decade. Without access to legal counsel, asylum seekers are three to five times more likely to be denied and deported, often into life-threatening situations. In Vermont, the number of asylum seekers has grown significantly in the last few years, but the state’s legal capacity has not grown to match it. Faced with a relatively low number of attorneys per capita, Vermont has struggled to provide representation – paid or pro bono – to asylum seekers.
Responding to the rise in asylum claims in the state, a network of community support organizations has arisen, including the Community Asylum Seekers Project in 2016. By building partnerships with legal service providers, we have encountered a growing number of attorneys who are willing to take pro bono asylum cases but lack the necessary resources. This project takes our on-the-ground experience supporting asylum seekers and pairs it with our legal connections to build a statewide resource center that will equip and mentor willing attorneys, and match them with asylum seekers in need. An ever-growing number of people from Haiti, the Northern Triangle, the African continent, and Afghanistan are in the state seeking safety for themselves and their families. We seek to build a web of legal support with the resources and expertise of our partners, allowing hundreds of people more just and open access to our country’s legal system, and a life with dignity.
Rebecca (Becky) Wasserman (she/her) is an attorney in the Office of Legislative Counsel for the Vermont General Assembly. Her portfolio is primarily focused on budget, tax, and public financing-related legislation. She is also an adjunct professor and supervising attorney for the Legislation Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School. Prior to moving to Vermont, Becky was an associate in the Financial Regulation Group at the UK-based law firm, Linklaters, LLP. Becky started working with asylum seekers more than ten years ago through her law school’s immigration clinic. Since then she has worked in a pro bono capacity on a number of immigration matters, including volunteering at the southern border in 2018 and 2019. She is licensed to practice law in Vermont and New York.
Jill Martin Diaz (they/them) is Assistant Professor and Lead Attorney of Vermont Immigrant Assistance (VIA) at Vermont Law and Graduate School. There they support student clinicians to advance immigrants’ rights through direct legal services, systems advocacy, and community education. Prior to this appointment, Jill was a Vermont Poverty Law Fellow at Vermont Legal Aid and an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Sanctuary for Families New York. Jill is passionate about legal work that promotes more equitable resource distribution and more equal access to justice. They are licensed to practice law in Vermont and New York.
Kate Paarlberg-Kvam (she/they) is Executive Director at the Community Asylum Seekers Project. Kate holds a PhD in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and works with CASP’s team of pro bono asylum attorneys to connect with and serve asylum seekers in Southern Vermont. She is excited to be lending CASP’s resources toward the co-leadership of this collaborative effort to increase the availability of pro bono asylum support in Vermont.
Contact us! VAAP is currently building an infrastructure to connect mentors with attorneys, and resources with interested pro bonos. Look for our sessions at the upcoming conferences of the Vermont Bar Association and the Pro Bono Conference
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Vermont Asylum Assistance Project is a nascent effort being led by CASP. If you would like to donate in order to help us get the project off the ground, please donate here.
Please check back soon for contact information for asylum seeker intake services.