Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13122057 (posted Dec. 20, 2013)"
AILA Announces Fall 2013 AILA Pro Bono Heroes Honorees
AILA is pleased to announce the recipients of the "Pro Bono Heroes" quarterly awards. For Fall 2013, the AILA National Pro Bono Services Committee solicited nominations of organizations or institutions around the country that promote or contribute to pro bono legal assistance. These organizations are considered role models by their promotion of pro bono as a professional value and their generosity with time and resources. After considering all of the nominees, we are glad to recognize the following AILA Pro Bono Heroes:
Northeast (CT, New England, NJ, NY, Ohio, and PA):
Safe Passage Project: In 2006, New York Law School's Professor Lenni Benson created the Safe Passage Project in response to the large number of unaccompanied, unrepresented non-citizen children on the newly-created juvenile docket at the New York Immigration Court. Safe Passage produces training materials, presents a yearly CLE on representing non-citizen juveniles, and forges connections with law firms to pair their attorneys with both a pro bono case and a law student to assist in the filing of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status applications. In 2012, Safe Passage took over Judge Patricia Rohan's juvenile docket at the New York Immigration Court. One Thursday a month, Professor Benson and her Safe Passage students, who are enrolled in a project-based learning course, head to immigration court and screen the non-citizen minors on the docket. The students write comprehensive assessments of the cases, identify legal options, and then assist the pro bono attorneys, many of whom are not familiar with immigration and/or family law, to develop a strategy to assist the minor. Safe Passage has helped well over a hundred young people to gain lawful immigration status in the United States. In addition, the Safe Passage Project gives "Know Your Rights" presentations on DACA and immigration relief in New York City high schools in Washington Heights. AILA is happy to acknowledge the wonderful contributions of the Safe Passage Project by naming them as Pro Bono Heroes!
Southeast (Carolinas, Florida, Georgia-Alabama, Mid-South, D.C. and Puerto Rico):
Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition: For over a decade, the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition has been a non-profit star within the immigration community in the D.C. metropolitan area. With a small staff of just 10 employees, CAIR Coalition is a local powerhouse advocating for the most vulnerable of immigrants - adults, mentally ill and unaccompanied children in immigration detention. Through the staff's dedication, teamwork and leadership over the years, CAIR Coalition has consistently worked to bring together community groups, pro bono attorneys, volunteers and immigrants from the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland to ensure that all immigrants are treated with fairness, dignity and respect for their human and civil rights. As the only nonprofit solely dedicated to serving locally detained immigrants, CAIR Coalition's impact in providing access to pro bono services - and therefore access to justice - has been invaluable and immeasurable in the lives of thousands of indigent immigrants.
Last year, in addition to its detention outreach and direct legal services, CAIR secured pro bono legal assistance for over 63 detained immigrants (adults and children) in removal proceedings, obtained volunteer assistance to prepare over 41 asylum seekers for their credible/reasonable fear interviews, and provided 48 non-detained immigrants with brief advice in partnership with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program's Immigration Clinic. In 2013 CAIR Coalition staff, in collaboration with pro bono attorneys, has authored and distributed three practice manuals for pro bono attorneys handling immigration matters. It has also created an online repository of sample materials to supplement the practice manuals and expert mentorship that the staff provides to pro bono attorneys. AILA is pleased to recognize CAIR Coalition as a Pro Bono Hero for 2013.
Central (Canada, Chicago, Indiana, Iowa/Nebraska, Mexico City, Michigan, Minnesota/Dakotas, Missouri/Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Bangkok District & Rome District Chapters):
The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI): HRI is the only organization in North Texas that offers FREE legal services to immigrant victims of human rights abuses. The small staff of attorneys and paralegals at HRI do an amazing job training and working with volunteer attorneys in order to represent VAWA, U-Visa, asylum and other kinds of clients. Last fiscal year, HRI coordinated its own staff and 144 volunteer attorneys who worked on over 400 cases. The difference HRI makes is evident. Former clients serve as staff, and frequently attend community events hosted by HRI to tell their stories - even years after having received assistance. AILA is pleased to recognize the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas as a Pro Bono Hero for its remarkable support and promotion of pro bono participation.
West (Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Northern California, San Diego, Santa Clara, Southern California, Oregon, Utah, Washington):
Faegre Baker Daniels, (Denver, Colorado Office): Led by its pro bono manager Candace Whitaker, Faegre Baker Daniels' Denver office has played an instrumental role in ensuring justice for immigrants in Colorado. In 2006, the firm partnered with the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), a non-profit in Colorado, to help match its lawyers with immigrant clients. Faegre has promoted pro bono work among its own attorneys, and it has worked hard to ensure that attorneys at other firms have the resources necessary to represent immigrant clients pro bono. Faegre's attorneys have represented immigrant crime victims in applying for U Visas, represented refugees and asylum seekers, helped lawful permanent residents naturalize, and helped youth apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In addition to direct legal representation, Faegre has sponsored a large number of pro bono legal trainings, which have prepared pro bono attorneys to represent clients in U Visa, gender-based asylum, and DACA cases. Faegre also recently hosted multiple CLE trainings on DACAs for both its own attorneys and attorneys in other firms to prepare them to represent DACA-eligible pro bono clients. As a result RMIAN was able to refer almost 100 DACA cases to volunteer attorneys. Faegre is now leading an effort to create a bank of pro bono attorneys who have expertise in applying for U Visas to meet the increasing need for pro bono representation in these cases. AILA is glad to distinguish Faegre Baker Daniels' Denver, Colorado office as a Pro Bono Hero for their exemplary role in support of pro bono and access to justice.
We applaud all of those who were nominated for their exemplary pro bono efforts, and especially congratulate our honorees for the Fall of 2013 Pro Bono Heroes!
The next nomination cycle will begin in January 2014 - please visit www.aila.org/probonoheroes for updates!
Through the Pro Bono Heroes awards AILA recognizes individuals and organizations from across the country that embody the pro bono spirit, through promoting and contributing to pro bono work, taking on complex pro bono cases or handling a significant number of pro bono cases or pro bono hours.