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Compassionate Crusader

A new lawyer advocates for immigrants

Urooj Khan ’10 may work in corporate litigation, but her passion is purely pro bono. 

A 2015 graduate of Columbia Law School and soon-to-be member of the New York state bar, she spends much of her free time tackling immigration and asylum law gratis. It’s a very personal mission: When Khan was 5, her family emigrated from Pakistan. 

“I was able to come to the U.S. through the hard work of my parents,” she says. “This is my way of paying it forward.” 

In addition to her parents’ example, Khan credits Swarthmore with helping shape her decision to go to law school as well as with giving her a framework to live ethically and committed to social justice.

In 2014, as part of the Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Khan took on the case of Michael C., a Nigerian man fleeing persecution by Boko Haram. For six months, Khan and a partner met with Michael weekly to compile a 40-page affidavit to help him tell his story. After filing a brief arguing that he had a legal claim to asylum in the U.S. and backing it up with hundreds of pages of documentary evidence, they were able to successfully argue his case before a judge.

“Just a few months ago, Michael called to say he was still so thankful for our work,” says Khan. “He told me that he would never forget us, that we changed his life and gave him hope at a time when he had none.”

She’s happy to report that not only is Michael C. now on the path to U.S. citizenship, but he’s working to bring his family over as well.

“It means so much to know that I had an impact not just on his life, but on his children’s and his wife’s,” she says. “It’s so gratifying to be able to help a new generation of Americans.”