Brooke Bacchus '24 Hopes to Give Back Through Fellowship With Immigrant Justice Corps

Brooke Bacchus '24


The United States is witnessing an unprecedented influx of migrants seeking asylum, resulting in over 200,000 monthly encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border on multiple occasions, according to the Pew Research Center. Recognizing the urgent need for legal representation, recent Albany Law School graduate Brooke Bacchus ’24 joined the largest class of Fellows ever welcomed to the Immigrant Justice Corps. Bacchus is now part of a group of 130 Fellows carefully selected from across the nation.

“I am most excited to explore a new area of immigration law, which is removal defense; we will be helping incarcerated individuals who are under threat of removal from the U.S.,” Bacchus said. “That is an area I don’t have experience in, but I am excited to delve into.”

Founded in 2014, the IJC “identifies promising lawyers and advocates passionate about immigration, places them with organizations where they can make the greatest difference, and supports them with training and expert insights as they directly assist immigrants in need.” With more than 3.6 million cases in immigration courts and a record number of asylum seekers unable to find representation, the need for quality representation has never been greater.

“With this record-breaking class, we’re not just mitigating a crisis, we’re building a movement of the next generation of immigration lawyers and advocates,” said Jojo Annobil, IJC’s Chief Executive Officer. “This class will expand IJC’s reach nationwide, level the playing field, and bring relief to immigrant communities. Together, our Fellows are transforming immigrant lives and advocating for a just immigration system.”

This class of Fellows will serve as staff attorneys at immigrant legal service providers and community-based organizations nationwide for two years, representing low-income immigrants in removal defense and affirmative applications for asylum seekers. Specifically, Bacchus will be working at Prisoners' Legal Services (PLS), but when she walked through the doors at Albany Law School in 2021, she didn’t think she would be thrust into a position to make such an impact so soon.

Brooke Bacchus

“I did not go into law school intending to practice immigration law; I wanted to be a prosecutor. I took an immigration law elective in my second year and was flooded with a wave of interest on the topic,” Bacchus said. “I was never one of those students that picked a career based solely on financial gain. I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing I wouldn't be working in the vein of public service.”

In a way, Bacchus’ journey has come full circle as she reflects on her family’s past. Her father and mother fought for years to attain U.S. citizenship.

“Oddly, I did not have any interest in immigration law when I came into law school because my parents were immigrants from Guyana,” Bacchus said. “I think everybody deserves a fair shake at attaining U.S. citizenship. If an immigration attorney had not helped my dad get my mom and my older brother to the U.S. in 1998, I would not have gotten the opportunity to attend college, let alone law school.”

For Bacchus, this work holds a special place in her heart; it is in her roots, and the opportunity she has at the PLS through the IJC Fellowship gives her a chance to give back, to give others the opportunity her family was given so many years ago.

“I feel like it is only right that I devote at least five years to this field of law,” Bacchus said. “It is worth it to play a part in helping someone through any part of the complex immigration process, no matter how small. Helping someone in that process in any way I can is worth it to me.”

While helping individuals will bring Bacchus a sense of fulfillment, her family’s experience has her aiming higher, aiming for a career that brings positive change to immigration law and policy. After all, if it weren’t for her father going through this process to bring her mother and older brother to the U.S., she doesn’t know where she would be, she said.

“Ten years from now, I hope to have a hand in federal litigation to change some of these immigration laws. Maybe it is crazy to think like that, but this is all insane to me, and the only reason I am here and talking to you today is because my dad got lucky,” Bacchus said. “He brought love letters he wrote to my mom when they were on two different continents to an immigration attorney who felt obligated to bring them together. So, honestly, if I could make some big federal-level changes in 10 years, that would be amazing.”

Alongside 129 other recent law graduates, Bacchus will receive support and training through the IJC Fellowship program, which will sponsor her salary at a host organization while she gains practical experience in immigration law. At Prisoners' Legal Services (PLS), the organization hosting Bacchus's fellowship, she will join several other recent Albany Law School alums. Hannah Adams ’24 will begin her career in PLS's removal defense practice after taking the summer 2024 bar, where she will work alongside Magdalena Wasnieski ’23 representing people in immigration removal proceedings.

Like many students who have come through Albany Law School, Bacchus has a message to her younger self and the students getting ready to begin their law school journey.

“Don’t have tunnel vision when it comes to your career; three years seems like a short period; you have a lot of time to decide what type of law you want to practice. And you don’t have to practice just one type of law; go in with an open mind and let your education guide you to a career in which you will feel fulfilled.”