19th Powell Fellow To Represent Immigrant Children

Kevin Jackson ’20 Will Help Unaccompanied Youth in Georgia’s Foster Care System
Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson will work with Kids in Need of Defense in Atlanta to provide legal services for unaccompanied immigrant children. Photo by Julia Davis

April 24, 2020

University of Virginia School of Law student Kevin Jackson ’20 will help support immigrant children in Georgia’s foster care system as the 19th Powell Fellow in Legal Services.  

The Powell Fellowship, named for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., awards $45,000 and additional benefits to recipients who enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor under the sponsorship of a host public interest organization. The award is made for one year with the expectation that it will be renewed for a second year. Powell Fellows are also eligible for the school’s Loan Forgiveness Program

Working in Atlanta with Kids in Need of Defense, Jackson will help undocumented juveniles attain legal status before they become ineligible at age 18, and represent them in court, as needed. 

Unaccompanied children in foster care are some of the most vulnerable immigrants in the nation, Jackson explained; often, they and their families come to America fleeing gang violence, poverty and persecution. He said children may wind up in foster care because of abusive caregivers, or by being separated from their parents at the border or through deportations. 

“Learning a new language and a new culture is challenging even in ideal circumstances,” he said, “but these kids have to adapt to a new country, deal with the trauma of losing their families and worry about their immigration status all at once.” 

However, immigrant foster children generally qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas, which give them a path to citizenship. 

As an immigration attorney, Jackson will provide technical help to foster care and pro bono attorneys working on children’s cases. He will also develop a training program and guidance documents for attorneys and staff with the Division of Family and Children Services, which assists and supports families to ensure children are safe from abuse and families can become more self-sufficient. 

“Ultimately, this collaboration will keep Georgia foster children from slipping through the cracks of the immigration system,” he said. “Though my Powell project will be in Georgia, I believe the practices we develop will be useful to immigration advocates and foster systems across the United States.” 

At UVA Law, Jackson participated in the Migrant Farmworker Project and Special Immigrant Juvenile Project, and worked pro bono at Church World Services for Alternative Spring Break. He interned with Ayuda in Washington, D.C., with help from a Public Interest Law Association grant in 2018.  

Lawton Tufts, director of public service and alumni advising, said Jackson was a tireless advocate on behalf of people struggling in the immigration system. 

“His remarkable drive and intellect are matched with a genuine humility and with no expectation of recognition,” Tufts said. “I couldn’t imagine a more deserving person for this fellowship, or a timelier and more necessary project.” 

Jackson’s interest in immigration law is rooted in his upbringing and subsequent travels. He grew up in Argentina and Azerbaijan. More recently, he was a teacher in China for two years and has completed the spousal visa process with his wife, a Hong Kong native. 

“I learned firsthand how convoluted our immigration system is and watched with growing concern as immigrants here were subjected to harsh conditions,” he said. “Wanting to defend the international community that had always been my home, I decided to study law with a view to immigration advocacy.” 

Powell Fellows

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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