A new immigrant rights fellowship honors the memory of Elizabeth Frankel ’05

Family and friends of the late Elizabeth Frankel ’05 have established a summer fellowship at NYU Law in her memory, honoring Frankel’s dedication to immigrant rights.

Elizabeth Frankel
Elizabeth Frankel ’05

The new Elizabeth Frankel Immigrant Rights Fellowship provides funding for two students who pursue summer internships in immigrant services. Before her death in January 2021, Frankel was associate director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, where she was a strong, caring advocate for individual clients and took a leading role in expanding the organization’s reach from its Chicago origins to programs in Texas, New York, and other locations across the country.

“We are incredibly grateful to be able to honor the legacy of Elizabeth Frankel by offering fellowships to outstanding students who are committing their careers to advocating for the rights of immigrants,” says Assistant Dean for Public Service Lisa Hoyes ’99. “These fellowships will provide students with critical support so that they can gain the experience that they need to become leaders in the struggle for immigrant justice.”

This summer, Maya McDonnell ’22 and David Tisel ’23 are the first Elizabeth Frankel fellows. McDonnell is working at the Immigrant Defense Practice at the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, and Tisel at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Immigrant Rights Program.

Frankel’s work as a lawyer was informed by a special concern for the rights of immigrant youth. “When Elizabeth decided to go to law school, after two years teaching in the South Bronx with Teach for America, her focus was on a career in education public policy,” say her parents, Joan and Michael Frankel. “She decided to attend NYU in large part because of the excellence of its clinical programs. Her courses with Professors Randy Hertz and Marty Guggenheim were highlights of her law school education. Elizabeth learned immigration law by handling pro bono asylum cases while at Verrill Dana in Portland, Maine, and, ultimately and primarily, through her work at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

“She was a tireless and talented advocate for the children she served,” Joan and Michael Frankel add. “We are so pleased that this Immigrant Rights Fellowship program is being established in her memory to train law students to carry on the critical work to which she was so dedicated.”

“[Elizabeth Frankel] came to law school with a commitment to public interest work and she carefully chose the clinics, courses, and internships that would give her the skills and knowledge to help needy clients,” says Vice Dean Randy Hertz, director of clinical and advocacy programs. “She did so much good for so many people in the tragically short time that she was with us.”

“Liz was very special and her loss is profound,” says Fiorello LaGuardia Professor of Clinical Law Martin Guggenheim. “She went to work at the University of Chicago in its clinical program as a pioneer in immigration work focused on representing children. She played a key role in founding and developing the Young Center into the leading office of its kind in the country. All the while we continued to stay in touch because of my work in the field of representing children. Liz was a tireless advocate who gave her all every day. She was also warm and funny. Really wonderful. She will be missed by many, including me.” 

After clerking for Justice Susan Calkins on the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine and working at Verrill Dana, Frankel joined the Young Center in 2009. The third attorney hired by the organization, Frankel helped develop a new model for protecting the rights of immigrant youth through child advocacy by attorneys, social workers, and volunteers.

Frankel taught in the Immigrant Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School for several years, and her 2011 article in Duke Forum for Law and Social Change, “Detention And Deportation with Inadequate Due Process: The Devastating Consequences of Juvenile Involvement with Law Enforcement for Immigrant Youth,” shone a light on the vulnerability of immigrant children in the criminal justice system.

“We were looking to support a very small and effective immigrant rights group right after the 2016 election,” says Michael Becker ’80, who with his husband Tee Scatuorchio has helped fund the Young Center, and now the new fellowship at NYU Law. As the US government took harsh policy measures toward minors unaccompanied—or forcibly separated from family—at the border, Becker says, “[the Young Center] became the leading advocates on that serious issue. Liz very much led the day-to-day and overall child advocacy through that time. The work continues at Young Center and through these fellowships in Liz's name.”

Posted July 9, 2021