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Vanessa Joseph – International Women’s Month
Today, we recognize Vanessa Joseph – an immigration attorney based in Miami, Florida.
She began her work in immigration and human rights as a law student when she worked in two legal clinics where she was able to engage in advocacy on behalf of the Haitian community of South Florida. In 2013, Joseph contributed to an amicus curiae brief filed in the case of Benito Tide Méndez et al. v. Dominican Republic before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This brief focused on human rights violations by the Dominican Republic in its process of carrying out mass deportations of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent without allowing them proper due process or taking into account humanitarian considerations. At that time, at the grassroots level, Vanessa also helped the local Haitian activists of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miami (FANM) organize a rally to protest the Dominican government’s actions and decision.
Vanessa worked with the Miami Law Health Rights Clinic where she represented dozens of low-income individuals who struggled with mental health issues, were HIV+, or had AIDS. During this time, Vanessa was an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps JD Fellow, where she delivered critically needed legal assistance to veterans in low-income and underserved communities in South Florida.
Today, as a Supervising Attorney at Catholic Legal Services, continues providing legal services to vulnerable populations. In addition to representing low-income immigrants, Vanessa conducts information sessions for immigrant detainees to inform them of their rights and the immigration court process. Through her work in the detention centers, she has provided these services to more than one thousand men and women through group and individual orientations and self-help workshops.
As a member of the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Vanessa served as a Chair of the State Issues Committee and a member on the Pro Bono and Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) committees. As member of AILA, Vanessa is focused on helping South Florida’s immigrant community find and secure competent legal representation and advocating on the issues that affect the immigrant communities in South Florida.
As the daughter of Haitian immigrants who moved to the United States in the late 1980s, her dedication to the Haitian community of Florida is unwavering. These are the driving forces of Vanessa as a professional: a desire to serve as an advocate for marginalized communities such as the immigrant population and people with developmental disabilities; and, a dedication to the promotion of culture and creativity, especially her own Haitian heritage. Vanessa’s strong beliefs in every individual’s right to proper legal representation and the agency to fully participate in decision-making that affect their own lives inform every professional decision she makes.
Given her passion for service, Vanessa Joseph, in 2019, was elected as the City of North Miami’s Elected City Clerk. In this office, she makes history as both the City’s youngest and first Black female City Clerk.