Member Awarded $10,000 for Serving Asylum Seekers
It is not every day your boss hands you a $10,000 check to give to a good cause. But, at Exelon, a Fortune 100 company and the biggest power company in the nation, that is exactly what JRCLS member, Julie Stevenson, experienced.
Stevenson, one of a handful of in-house attorneys in the Nuclear Group at Exelon, appreciated the company’s commitment to give back to the community. Exelon regularly encourages its employees to provide service, and allows those who devote more than 40 hours to a charity in a given year to apply for special recognition that could mean additional funds for their chosen charity. Although Stevenson had regularly assisted at the World Relief for Citizenship clinic and the National Immigration Justice Council’s asylum and refugee clinics, located across the street from the Company’s Chicago office, only last year did she have the chance to dedicate 40 hours to one organization. After more than 10 years of volunteering at these local groups, immigration was in her blood.
When Stevenson attended her BYU Law Reunion last year and learned about WIL’s upcoming Dilley project, it struck a chord. She petitioned Exelon for the time off to work for a week at the South Texas Family Residential Center to help women seeking asylum. They not only allowed her the time, but paid for her trip and gave her a $500 check to help fund the American Immigration Council (AIC), the financial arm of the Dilley Project organizers. Nancy Van Slooten, another JRCLS member, joined her to help with Spanish translation.
At Dilley, she saw first-hand the effects that the government’s separation and detention policies had on women and their children. To learn all they had been through in their native lands, and witness them having their children taken away at the border or be locked away in a jail-like detention center together, was heart-wrenching. Stevenson was able to explain asylum law to some detainees and assist them in passing an initial credible fear interview, where they must demonstrate the dangers of returning to their home country. She said, “If I could just help one woman and her children, that [was] my goal.” The initial credible fear interview is only the first step in the asylum process. But “at least these women know someone cared,” she said
Motivated by this life-changing trip, she applied for the Powering Communities Exelon Award Program, available for those who had exceeded 40 community hours in a given year. She was one of hundreds of applicants, and one of 24 winners of the award, presented by CEO, Christopher Crane at four separate luncheons in their honor across the Exelon companies. She is grateful that the $10,000 will give AIC the opportunity to help more refugees at Dilley.
Her final thoughts? “These were just mothers who were trying to keep their families safe. We are more the same than we are different. I felt a real connection to them, and I continue to feel the pull to try to help with asylum work in whatever small way I am able. I plan to do this full-time when I retire.”