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WJA 2023: Jenna Brofsky and Kelli Meilink

Laura Warfel//May 11, 2023

WJA 2023: Jenna Brofsky and Kelli Meilink

Laura Warfel//May 11, 2023

Jenna Brofsky (left) and Kelli MeilinkPartners, Husch Blackwell, Kansas City

Combining their expertise in their familiar focus of helping others, Jenna Brofsky and Kelli Meilink successfully led a pro bono program to assist refugees in seeking affirmative asylum in the U.S. after the fall of Afghanistan’s government in August 2021. Together, they coordinated the Afghanistan Emergency Assistance Project — in partnership with the Jewish Vocational Service of Kansas City (JVS) — which ultimately assisted more than 50 individuals with their applications.

Brofsky and Meilink trained and mentored 49 Husch Blackwell attorneys, summer associates and staff members from firm locations across the U.S. in how to prepare and review applications for filing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“This project originated with Jenna,” Meilink says. “She was already working with JVS, and they asked if our firm would be willing to take on some of the affirmative asylum cases. I contributed my experience with immigration.”

“Our attorneys and summer associates conducted client interviews to get the information they needed for the applications,” Brofsky says. “All this was done through translators. Different dialects were being translated. Clients were talking about very difficult life situations. These meetings were often hours long.”

One of the greatest challenges for everyone involved in this project was building rapport with clients who come from a totally different experience, who have been traumatized, who have different cultural expectations. Gaining their trust and then getting them to talk about the most traumatic event of their lives was a difficult process.

“Most of them had boarded a plane in Afghanistan during the U.S. evacuation,” Meilink says. “They didn’t even know where they were going. Their hope was to find political asylum.”

Most of the applications are still pending, but a few have been approved. This is the affirmation Brofsky, Meilink and their team needed. “We did something right,” Brofsky says. “Even though we are still waiting on decisions for dozens of cases, we have a sense of relief. We are truly helping people.”

Meilink adds, “Applying for U.S. immigration status should be easy. But the process is so complicated that it’s almost inaccessible to people unless they have an attorney.”

Women's Justice Awards 2023

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