Great.com Talks with Human Rights First’s Jenna Gilbert
By Paloma Delgado, Human Rights First Intern
In an interview that streams this week on Great.com’s podcast, “Great Talks With…” Human Rights First’s Director of Refugee Representation Jenna Gilbert describes the organization’s advocacy and legal representation work, the experiences of those who risk everything to seek safety in the United States, and the ways that our asylum system must be rebuilt to better support people seeking refuge.
“We oftentimes represent individuals who are fleeing their home countries because their governments or individuals have tried to dampen that freedom,” Gilbert said. “We try to allow people the protection that they need in order to be their true selves and practice their own beliefs and opinions.”
Now over six months removed from the Trump presidency, Gilbert stressed the difficulty in trying to undo the damage wrought by his administration. “During that four-year period, we saw an attempt to really decimate the asylum system as we know it,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert is one of many advocates who are deeply frustrated by the Biden administration’s lack of speed and urgency to restore asylum, but she sees some progress. “Last week, the Attorney General of the United States issued a decision rescinding some of those horrific policies, which is a great step forward, but certainly not enough to make people whole and undo the damage that has been done over the past four years,” Gilbert said.
Looking ahead, Gilbert hopes that the U.S. government will soon provide counsel to people seeking asylum, so individuals don’t need to pay for lawyers or find non-profit services to receive the representation they both need and deserve. “We really need to provide people with competent legal representation to help them navigate that process,” Gilbert said.
As Gilbert and her team continue to support people to seek and secure asylum, she finds the greatest fulfillment in helping clients succeed in finding safety in the U.S. “When you’re finally able to see them through the process — which in the United States can sometimes take years — it’s incredible,” Gilbert said.
Recently, with Gilbert’s steadfast support, a transgender woman from Kuwait and Human Rights First client who has been in the asylum process since 2015 finally won asylum in the U.S. “I’ve been in this field for more than a decade and those stories of joy and overcoming the odds to secure asylum really never get old and those are always, in my opinion, the biggest achievements,” Gilbert said.
“Great Talks With…” is a podcast produced by Great.com to introduce listeners to inspiring organizations and leaders dedicated to bringing positive change to the world. Jenna’s interview can be streamed here.