American University Launches New Defending the AU Dream Initiative

Gift from William I. Jacobs to Support Immigrant Justice Clinic Representation of DC Area DACA Students

July 2, 2019

Defending the AU Dream Initiative's supervising attorney Michelle Assad, second to left, is joined by Immigrant Justice Clinic student attorneys Taylor Gibson, Karen Sams, and Linda Campos.
Defending the AU Dream Initiative's supervising attorney Michelle Assad, second to left, is joined by Immigrant Justice Clinic student attorneys Taylor Gibson, Karen Sams, and Linda Campos.

Thanks to a generous gift from William I. Jacobs, BS KOGOD ’63, JD AUWCL ’66, American University is launching a new Defending the AU Dream Initiative. The Initiative will support immigration legal services provided by the Immigrant Justice Clinic (“the Clinic”) at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL). Services will include representation of college-age students with DACA and other immigration-related matters at AU and at other institutions in the DC metropolitan area.

Additionally, to broaden its impact, the Immigrant Justice Clinic team will conduct clinics and screenings at locations around the region.  The Clinic plans to disseminate the model, including best practices and lessons learned, to other law school clinics and faculty around the country. 

“We are tremendously grateful for this timely and selfless gift from Mr. Jacobs,” said AUWCL Dean Camille Nelson. “It is the impact of committed alumni such as Mr. Jacobs that advances our institution’s commitment to service to the DC and AU communities. We are excited to see how this gift, and the Defending the AU Dream Initiative, will help our innovative Immigrant Justice Clinic assist those most in need.”

The Clinic will expand the scope of its services for the 2019-20 academic year, increasing the number of student participants. A total of 16 students are set to take part in the Immigrant Justice Clinic during the upcoming academic year.

Jayesh Rathod
Jayesh Rathod

“This initiative comes at a critical time, given the uncertainty that DACAmented and other immigrant students currently face,” said Associate Dean Jayesh Rathod, who founded the Immigrant Justice Clinic in 2010 and now serves as director of AUWCL’s 10 clinical programs. “With legislation pending before the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to review the DACA case, immigrant students need our support to ensure they have a stable and prosperous future.”

The Immigrant Justice Clinic provides representation on a broad range of cases and projects involving individual immigrants and migrants, and their communities, both in the D.C. metropolitan area and overseas. Students Attorneys in the Clinic regularly appear in Immigration Court, and also appear before federal district court, the courts of Maryland and D.C., and before federal and state agencies.  Since migration has a transnational dimension, the Immigrant Justice Clinic occasionally advocates before regional and international bodies. The matters handled by the Clinic allow students to develop core lawyering skills, such as interviewing, counseling, negotiation, and trial advocacy, while cultivating complementary skills in the areas of policy and legislative advocacy, community organizing, and working with the media.

Michelle Assad Joins AUWCL as Supervising Attorney for Defending the AU Dream Initiative

Michelle Assad is joining the AUWCL Immigrant Justice Clinic in July 2019 as the new supervising attorney for the Defending the AU Dream Initiative. Assad is an experienced immigration attorney with broad-ranging expertise in the field. Her passion for immigrants’ rights and immigration law is rooted in her ethnically diverse family; her upbringing in New York City; her Spanish language fluency; and her experience as a first-generation U.S.-born citizen.

Michelle Assad
Michelle Assad

Assad immersed herself in immigration-related internships, courses, and the Immigrant Justice Clinic, while studying law at American University Washington College of Law. Upon graduation, she was awarded a JD Distinguished Fellowship to work with unaccompanied immigrant minors at Kids in Need of Defense in New York City. She then joined Brooklyn Defender Services where she developed an expertise in the intersection of criminal and immigration law. After several years in New York City, Assad began working with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender as one of two immigration attorneys in the entire agency. She was assigned to Prince George’s County, which has one of the largest immigrant populations in the State of Maryland, to manage all requests for criminal-immigration advice, conduct trainings for attorneys and staff, and update and develop practice advisories.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge with law students at my alma mater and encourage them to pursue a career as immigration attorneys,” Assad said. “I look forward to leading the Defending the AU Dream Initiative, and to providing critical services to immigrant college students at AU and in the D.C. metropolitan area.”


In 1896, American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 120 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. AUWCL’s top ranked specialty programs (in Clinical Legal Education, Trial Advocacy, International Law, Health Law and Policy, Intellectual Property, and Part Time JD) and dedicated faculty provide its more than 1,450 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC, the nation, and the world. For more information, visit