VOLS Immigration Project clients and partners celebrate Liz Markuci

May 16, 2019

 

 

New York City greeted us with a beautiful evening and after watching a short documentary featuring four of our former clients (4 Stories for New York), we gathered on the terrace of New York Law School to share stories, anecdotes, projects and yes,some joyful tears to commemorate Immigration Project Director Liz Markuci’s departure.

Liz started her journey at VOLS 10 years ago as a part time legal consultant on immigration matters. Liz’s determination and grit helped her to convince VOLS’s leadership, Board of Directors, and funders that serving immigrant youth in New York deserved VOLS’ full commitment. Since its creation in 2011 under the name “The Dream Not Deferred Project,” VOLS’ Immigration Project has continued to grow, adding more members to the VOLS team and expanding partnerships across New York.  Under Liz’s leadership, 800 clients have received free, high quality, ethical legal counsel and representation.

Liz led efforts to bring important information about immigrant rights and due process to students in New York City public schools. Liz’s work also impacted the legal services community; 3,000 lawyers were trained to work with communities with limited or no access to resources, particularly young immigrants. These lawyers went on to represent hundreds of immigrants in their immigration cases.

These are all impressive numbers; we are used to talking about these figures when we are asking for support for our work. But last Thursday was different. We gathered to reflect on the work, leadership and legacy of Liz. We came together as folks who have been touched by her work: her clients, partners and coworkers. It was a community coming together not to respond to a crisis but because we had the rare opportunity to celebrate and share our stories along with our hopes for the future.

As we laughed and watched the sun go down, there was one takeaway that kept coming up in conversations: Liz always gives space to direct the conversation into whatever issue was important for her community. She always had time for our questions, doubts and expectations, for issues unrelated with a case or our job, for things that were important to us just because… life happens! What sets Liz apart is her ability to understand and embrace the fundamental truth that there is no single issue affecting our decisions (the bad and the good). She not only allowed her intuitive spirit to flow into her work, but she was also never concerned about how it would impact her personally. Would she have to allocate more time to finish a pressing matter? Would she have to change a legal strategy after a young person shared something very difficult and very personal with her? Liz genuinely cared about these things and tried to take into consideration what others (we) wanted or needed when she had to make a decision as an attorney, a colleague, an employee, a supervisor and a friend. We will miss her; we will miss her generosity, her sense of humor and her knack for being strong and powerful without fear of being vulnerable.

As the Immigration Project says goodbye to Liz, we stand proudly with the goal of continuing her legacy of moral integrity, professional responsibility and a profound respect for one another.

As former client Misty said in her card to Liz:

“Thank you for being exactly who you are, for taking the good with the bad, for walking with me hand in hand.”