The Uncompelled Immigrant — #TheWomanCrushWednesday

The Uncompelled Immigrant — #TheWomanCrushWednesday

The Woman Crush Wednesday series will highlight the extraordinary women in my life who exemplify character, kindness, ingenuity, and intelligence. I am grateful that I learn from these individuals and I’m excited for all they will do, and where they will travel. This piece will feature Audrey Lefevre.

Audrey Lefevre.

Cet article a été traduit à partir de l’anglais par Maxim Arquette. En français, ici.

This article has been translated by Maxim Arquette. Please click here for the French language version.

Small only in stature, I met Audrey on a hot Athens day at Khora — a non-profit organization servicing refugees and asylum-seekers. After being lured to Greece under false pretenses to volunteer for a different organization, I was guided to Khora and wished to join their team. Seeing both hope and desperation in my eyes, Audrey and her colleagues exchanged glances and WhatsApp messages, took mercy upon me, and welcomed me to their organization. Like many, meeting Audrey changed my life.

Le Début

orn in Montluçon and raised in Villebret, France, Audrey is a trilingual legal professional with professional experience in at least three different countries on two different continents. Less than a decade prior, Audrey was a high school student who couldn’t memorize English or roll an R in Spanish. Knowing she wanted to leave France one day and work in international policy, Audrey was overcome with mounting anxiety as her future approached.

Passionate about law and order, Audrey dreamed of joining the gendarmerie. Feeling this was the best career to serve the public and engender an equitable world, Audrey studied law at university, hoping to enter the organization above the rank of an officer and one day perform acts of public service.

Love in Every Handshake

hile studying, Audrey was still apprehensive of her unimproved language skills. Serendipitously, she met a young woman from Colombia. Swept away by love, Audrey took a spontaneous gap year in Mexico to be with her significant other. Leaving alarmed parents behind, who were justifiably concerned their daughter wouldn’t finish her education and genuinely mortified that said daughter was moving to a country with escalating violence, Audrey created an alternative route to build her career. Audrey focused only on language for the next twelve months, enrolling in intensive Spanish and English courses. She visited Colombia and expanded her global network. Finally, she could roll an R.

Returning to France, Audrey completed her bachelor’s degree. Armed with curiosity and passion, Audrey journeyed to Madrid to study for her first year of her master’s. Returning to France, she panicked realizing she was out of sync with her peer group. After her gap year, and then later a master’s in Spain, she knew no one. She summoned courage and enrolled in another master’s course. By chance once more, Audrey reunited with her friend Justine — who introduced her to Maxim and Coline. Years later, they founded Move In Generations.

Audrey and Coline, co-founders of Move In Generations.

An Advocate Rises

shared passion for justice, immigration, and asylum seekers —Maxim, Coline, Justine and Audrey cultivated a friendship of shared ethos and action. They interviewed asylum-seekers, and hosted a legal aid clinic with La Cimade. So inspired, Audrey journeyed to Greece to complete her master’s internship. Ever the faithful friend and believing in the power of camaraderie, she brought Maxim and Justine and to share the experience.

Like many across the world, Audrey was familiar with the migrant crisis of which Greece has grappled from 2015 onward. What she was unaware, was the scale of depravity and dearth of resources that continues today. The homelessness. Inaccessibility to medical assistance. The problems seemed endless. More worrying, Audrey quickly realized the shortcomings of her formal education. There’s only so much policy can teach you when you’re working with clients who crossed the Aegean sea and arrived to a hostile environment. Immediately, she deconstructed all preconceived notions and endeavored to be someone that an asylum-seeker could rely. She succeeded.

In Greece, like myself, Audrey found part of her soul. For the first time in her life, she was in a place where she didn’t have to explain herself. Everyone is equal and deserves equal protection under the law. Every person is worthy of a vigorous defense. What matters are people — human beings, fighting for the chance at a better life.

As Audrey immersed herself, the arduous work eventually took its toll. She began experiencing vicarious trauma. Recognizing her mental health decline, she left Greece having learned more than she ever did in a classroom. Brimming with knowledge, drive, and a new sense of purpose, Audrey journeyed once more: to the United States of America.

Audrey with her good friend, Athens, Greece October 2019.

The Professor

ith no interest in academia and admitting as such in her interview, Audrey sought to improve her English and traveled across the Atlantic to do so. Hired as an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, in six weeks Audrey prepared a syllabus, constructed a course, and had her visa processed to work in the United States. Younger and shorter than her students, Audrey commanded her classroom with an interactive curriculum and innovative discussion. Audrey’s passion for European law and French law transcended, as she wanted law to be fun. When Audrey arrived, her students were incredulous that a baby-faced young adult would instruct them; when she departed, they commended her for being the best professor of the semester.

At Detroit Mercy School of Law, Audrey befriended Alex Vernon, the director of the university’s immigration clinic. They formed an exceptional professional rapport, and traveled to different immigration sites and detention centers in both the United States and Canada. Through Alex, Audrey is able to work where she does today.

Move In Generations

shered home by the pandemic, Audrey was once again where she didn’t want to be: France. Abiding by government restrictions but desperately wanting to reunite with friends, Audrey, Coline, and Maxim found a meeting point within one hundred kilometers of their respective homes to see one another. Of all the things they could’ve discussed, Audrey’s journey to America, the current events of the world, the three friends sat in a vehicle for eight hours and discussed immigration. With that, Move In Generations was born. Ethos and action.

Move In Generations, of which Audrey is the co-founder and president, began with five people and is now approaching thirty. The project has three components: to raise awareness about the causes of forced migration through media with readily digestible information; to broaden the immigration discussion, educating and illustrating in schools how migration affects every aspect of our lives — from the places we live to the food we eat, and to our neighbors on our street; and eventually to raise funds and provide necessary supplies, such as hygiene kits and food parcels to marginalized groups.

Audrey is many things, a migrant chief among them. She recognizes the privilege she is afforded that many are not. She migrated from her hometown to university; migrated to Mexico to study English and Spanish; migrated to Spain to earn a master’s degree, and migrated to Paris to work in human rights. As of now, Audrey works with La Cimade, the same organization that she hosted legal clinics with as a student. Today, she communicates with asylum-seekers in detention centers speaking French, Spanish and English — two languages that she migrated to learn.The greatest migration of all — the girl who thought she couldn’t learn languages becoming the multilingual human rights activist.

Looking forward, Audrey wants a world free of persecution and hunger. A world where recognizing differences isn’t lethal; a world where people are free to live as they are for who they are. She so desperately wants us all to share this vision, but realizes many do not. If there ever was a reason Audrey were forced to flee France, she hopes someone would care for her as she has for others.

Audrey is Jurist with La Cimade. Audrey earned her Bachelor of Law at the Université Clermont Auvergne, with honors. Audrey studied for her Master’s of International Law and Legal Studies at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Université Clermont Auvergne, and earned a Master’s of International Law, with honors. Audrey is the co-Founder and co-President of Move in Generations. Audrey is today, and every day, my Woman Crush Wednesday.

Move In Generations can be found here on Instagram.

Audrey Lefevre, Lake Michigan 2020.

These are my reflections on this journey of life and how (sometimes) we can navigate it better. With candor, love and humo(u)r.

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