I served as a Jesuit Volunteer in the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program in Phoenix, during a time of growing hostility and criminalization of the immigrant community. Being involved in community efforts to protect the immigrant and undocumented community in Arizona as a JV forever shaped my career. After receiving my JD, I returned to Arizona to represent some of the thousands of adults, fearing harm and death in their countries of origin, held in immigration detention in Arizona every day.
JVC’s values continue to provide an integral guide for me to navigate the tumultuous waters of immigration detention and asylum law. I am motivated to address the lack of dignity for the lives of migrants, particularly my clients who are seeking asylum: one of our biggest fights, for example, is against a decision to take away asylum protections for women who are fleeing their home countries because of gender-based violence.
During my year as a Jesuit Volunteer, I learned that silence is complicity. I have to continually challenge myself and engage in these issues, instead of turning away when it becomes too challenging. Social justice requires that non-directly impacted people continue to embrace and immerse themselves in social injustices, even when it is easy and possible to disengage. My JV year forced me to confront my role in injustice, and my work as an immigration lawyer is one way in which I try to immerse myself and engage on a daily basis.
Shannon Johnson Guerisoli, Esq. served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Arizona and has continued her work with the immigrant and refugee population.