Lauren Blodgett, Immigration Lawyer at Safe Passage Project
We discovered Lauren on BK Magazine's 30 under 30. Lauren, a former International Affairs Lawyer made her transition into immigration law. Her field alone piqued our interests and we reached out. During our conversation, we were so pleased to hear how she started in her field, how her clients inspire her, and fighting for justice for these young women. Read about Lauren's career and passion below:
Lauren, can you describe your dreams and how you are successfully chasing them?
My dream is to create a space where girls are empowered to live healthy, happy, bad-ass lives. It is time that girls are recognized for being strong, smart, and brave, and not limited or defined by their sex or their gender. I find that immigrant girls in particular have so much value to add to our country, but they are often the group that is the most vulnerable and least protected.
Right now I am working towards my dream of girls empowerment by working as an immigration attorney at non-profit in New York called the Safe Passage Project. Our team provides free legal representation to children who are facing deportation. In addition to our legal services, I co-founded a girls group last year called Las Mariposas (the butterflies) for our teenage clients who are fleeing gender-based violence. We host events each month that are aimed at community, empowerment, and wellness. We have done activities such as salsa dancing, kick-boxing, photography, yoga, soccer, improv-acting, ice-skating, journalism, and discussions about gender.
In chasing my dreams, I’ve allowed myself to remain a bright-eyed dreamer despite living in a rather discouraging political climate. I think it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in and engage in healthy risk-taking. This means pursuing your dreams before you’re ready or comfortable. But it also means taking self-care seriously. I meditate, I run, I dance, I journal, I pay attention to who and what makes me feel good. My two speeds in life have always been fast and faster, so lately I’ve been making an effort to slow down. While I still try to bring high energy to my work, I’ve learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup!
You mentioned you have lived internationally and was involved in international relations - why did you made the jump into immigration law?
I’ve had the incredible opportunity and privilege to work all over the globe. I’ve worked on human rights issues and international law in Thailand, Morocco, South Africa, Jordan, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Austria. I was able to engage in legal work from a bird’s eye view, identifying global trends, advocating for policy changes, and participating in diplomacy. I found this work to be really important, but something was missing for me.
When I participated the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, however, something just clicked. I was working directly with immigrants who were applying for asylum in the United States. I loved being able to sit with a person, listen to their story, and use my legal skills to help them reach a better, safer life. I’m definitely a people-person, so that human connection was key for me. I also felt drawn to the substance of the work, as immigration law is one of the most complex areas of law in our country. Finally, I found this work to be critical because individuals do not have the right to a free attorney in immigration proceedings. This blew my mind the first time I learned this. You could be a 3 year old child, who does not speak English, and you have to represent yourself in a court of law. So deciding on this area of law was an easy choice for me. I consider it a privilege that I get to dedicate my energy every day to serving this population, who deserve quality representation and the chance to stay in this country.
Within your work, you said you also form a community amongst your clients, why it is important for you to create a space for these young women?
While every child’s experiences are different, I found that many of my clients were facing similar trauma and similar struggles. I saw this as an opportunity for them to connect and learn from each other. For teenagers in particular, it is so important to surround yourself with people who you can relate to. Although we do lots of fun activities like dancing and yoga, we also have serious and difficult conversations surrounding gender, race, and violence. It’s a space to have fun and be a kid, but also a space to develop a sisterhood and have these conversations that might be awkward or difficult. For me this community is a place to feel heard, understand, and accepted.
The girls in Las Mariposas have started to connect outside of the group, which of course makes me beam with pride and joy. What makes me even happier, however, is that they challenge each other and disagree with each other during the group as well. Different perspectives are what drive growth and acceptance, especially when its done from a place of love and respect. Even though I’m facilitating the group and trying to foster this community, it is really the girls themselves who are making the magic happen.
How do your clients inspire you?
They are unstoppable. They’re brave, resilient, and fearless. At the same time, they have a calm, beautiful energy that I strive to emulate. Whenever I meet with them, I see how giving, caring, and hopeful they are. I see in them so much of what I hope to become one day. Although being an immigration attorney is tough right now, spending time with my clients makes it all worth it because they genuinely brighten my day.
Where you do you see yourself in the next five years and when do you think you will be “satisfied” in your work?
Moving forward in my career, I will continue to fight for the rights of immigrant girls. Right now I am so proud and happy to be a part of the Safe Passage Project family. It is a team of attorneys and advocates who are doing incredible work and who push me to grow. My mentor (our Legal Director), Desiree, is seriously like Wonder Woman. She is intelligent, hilarious, kind, fun, and bad-ass… basically everything I strive to be. So as long as I get to do this work alongside people like her, I know that I will continue to learn and grow.
That being said, I will never be satisfied (shout out for Hamilton references!), but that drive is exactly what will keep pushing me forward. There’s always more work that can be done. I can be happy and proud and present, but I will never stop keeping my eyes on the horizon at the same time.
My dream is to establish a non-profit of my own that provides legal services for immigrant girls, that employs a holistic approach to meet the various needs of this particular population. I envision the non-profit having a shelter, legal services, English classes, a computer lab, a support group, and an access to employment program. I’m really excited about this idea. For me, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when. I truly believe that I am just getting started!
Thank you to thecnnekt for reaching out, sharing my work, and raising the voices of women!
To stalk, we mean, learn more about Lauren, you can follow her instagram @blodgey. To learn more about Safe Passage Project, you can visit their website here www.safepassageproject.org.How to get involved in Safe Passage Project, you can click here.
Interview by Chary