Jessie Boas ’19 Receives Inaugural Defender of the Dream Award at Feerick Center 2022 FriendRaiser


On March 10, Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice held its annual Virtual FriendRaiser, where Jessie Boas ’19 was honored with the Center’s inaugural Defender of the Dream Award. Boas is a staff attorney and Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, where she represents non-detained and detained people in their deportation proceedings.

The award recognizes members of the Feerick Center and Fordham Law School community who have distinguished themselves for their work and service in advancing human rights, upholding the rule of law, and transforming systems to advance justice. 

The event met and exceeded the Center’s fundraising goals; funds raised will go towards supporting the Feerick Center Immigrant Justice Project.

Immigration Advocacy at Fordham Law

In his welcoming remarks to guests, former Fordham Law Dean and Feerick Center namesake John D. Feerick ’61 spoke briefly about his own family’s history of immigration.

“Looking back, my parents today would be called unaccompanied immigrant children,” said Feerick. “They made their way to the United States from Ireland to pursue opportunity and a new life as teenagers. I know I was very fortunate; not all immigrants to the United States have had the good fortunes that I and my family enjoyed…Their plight creates a moral imperative for the legal community to respond and to help them navigate our complicated immigration system.”

The Defender of the Dream Award was presented to Boas by Jojo Annobil ’90, executive director of Immigrant Justice Corps. The difficulties faced by asylum seekers in the U.S. are exacerbated by a shortage of lawyers trained on how to provide assistance, said Annobil, something that lawyers like Boas are helping to change. 

“For the past two and a half years, I have watched Jessie become a beacon of hope and a powerful advocate for low income immigrants in rural California,” he said. “It is an extraordinary privilege and honor to present [this award]to her.”

The Future of Immigration Advocacy

In her acceptance speech, Boas spoke about working in Dilley, Texas as a first-year law student, assisting asylum-seeking families detained in the South Texas Family Residential Center and how it inspired her to continue working in the field of immigration justice.

“Several days after my first trip to Dilley, I received a phone call that one of the women that I’d been working with had passed her interview while at the Dilley detention center, and had been released to her family in Arizona,” said Boas. “This news validated the work that we had all been doing that week and filled me with a profound sense of satisfaction. I knew at that precise moment that I wanted to be an immigration attorney, and specifically a removal defense attorney.”

Boas continued her relationship with the Dilley team while also taking on immigration internships at The Legal Aid Society and Catholic Charities in New York City before eventually applying to the Immigrant Justice Corps.

“I am truly humbled to be in the company of many people who have inspired me, mentored me, and shaped my way of thinking,” said Boas. “Many people here tonight have helped me realize the potential of immigration advocates to truly make a difference in our current world.”

“I will continue to fight for the individuals who are at the very foundation of our communities, the same individuals who are often left out of our histories and out of our laws,” she said.


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