Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13021400 (posted Mar. 6, 2013)"
As we look forward into this New Year, let's take a moment to reflect on some of the most heart-warming, inspirational, moving, and just plain amazing moments of this past year. The cheers that resonated in Nashville as the President announced the DACA program, the courage embraced by a DREAMer to pursue his passion, and the collective strength of dedicated AILA members helping deserving immigrants, are just a few of the stories that made us smile and proud to be a part of such a progressive and compassionate profession.
For the next 14 days, starting this Valentine's Day, we will share stories and moments that will lift your heart:
14) This April AILA Chapters will be rolling up their sleeves, serving their communities and taking action during the AILA month of service. Join us in D.C. on April 11th for the 2013 National Day of Action and in your community on April 20th for Citizenship Day 2013.
April 20th will mark the 7th year AILA members have been working on a national scale to provide free or low-cost assistance to eligible legal permanent residents who wish to apply for U.S. citizenship! And on April 11th hundreds of AILA members from around the country will descend on Washington D.C. and call on Congress to create a common sense immigration policy that recognizes the hardships and contributions of new Americans and aspiring citizens.
-Anu Joshi, AILA Grassroots Advocacy Associate
13) It is in that spirit that I speak to you tonight about a pressing problem, the need for adequate representation for a vulnerable population: immigrants. Immigrants often come to the United States in fear, escaping persecution, escaping poverty, speaking little or no English, uninformed as to whom to turn for competent legal advice. Too often, the lack of adequate counsel for immigrants all but eliminates the immigrant's hopes to live the American dream.
And what would the American dream have been, what would the United States be, without the dynamism, the energy, the cultures, the patriotic devotion of millions of immigrants who have contributed so much to this country? Everyone here tonight can easily answer that query, thinking about our individual experiences, our family experiences or those of our immigrant friends, relatives, or colleagues.
Hoping to raise awareness and to effect change, I took the occasion of the Marden Lecture of the NYC Bar to challenge the New York legal establishment and others interacting with that establishment (law firms, bar associations, nonprofits, corporate counsel, foundations, law schools, state and local government, the media, the immigration bar, senior lawyers and retirees, providers of continuing education and training, and think tanks) in order to increase efforts to help address the large-and largely unmet-legal needs in noncitizen communities. As I said justice should not depend upon the income level of immigrants. A lawyer's duty to serve those unable to pay is not an act of charity or benevolence, but rather one of professional responsibility, reinforced by the terms under which the state has granted to the legal profession effective control of the legal system.
Read more of Judge Robert Katzmann's sermon on Meeting the Legal Needs of Immigrants
12) So here I am relaxing on my couch watching the super bowl and all of the great commercials when I notice some landmarks I recognize. And then…
Forget Ray Lewis & the Harbowl. I’m cheering for CIR!
-Paul Leahy, AILA Component Relations Manager
11) AILA has worked to ensure that immigrants are competently represented, so they are not forced to use the often-unscrupulous services of a local notario or unauthorized immigration consultant. To this end, AILA has created StopNotarioFraud.org, a comprehensive consumer website providing information and resources to immigrants to avoid being defrauded by a notario, and where to get help if they are harmed. Consumer protection information is available in English and en Español. Also newly launched in 2012 – view the website in Chinese and Polish!
10) In January, just days after inauguration, President Obama and eight Senators (four Republicans and four Democrats) issued two independent proposals to overhaul our country's immigration laws. On January 29, President Obama spoke in Las Vegas on his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, and while his speech did not offer specific policy proposals, the President’s plan for creating a common sense immigration policy is outlined in his factsheet entitled: “Fixing the Broken Immigration System So Everyone Plays by the Same Rules.” Most notably the President’s plan does not tie the road to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented Americans to any border security triggers as the Senate plan does, although he does lay out plans to increase enforcement both at the border and at worksites.
-AILA Advocacy, AILA on Reform 2013
9) Just a few days after the President announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, I had the opportunity to celebrate with a church full of DREAMers who had recently graduated from high school. On June 26, we gathered at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC for the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s 2012 DREAM Act Graduation. The commencement program included a procession of the class of 2012, numerous inspirational speakers, beautiful music and the presentation of diplomas. Following the graduation ceremony, DREAMers and advocates spoke to the press, took photos and marched joyfully to the U.S. Capitol, and later that afternoon some dedicated AILA attorneys provided a free workshop on deferred action for the graduates. It was a beautiful day to witness.
AILA was among the proud sponsors of this year’s ceremony, which honored DREAMers from across the country. Photos from this event can be seen in the September/October Special Edition issue of VOICE.
-Susan Timmons, Associate Director of AILA’s Practice & Professionalism Center
8) With anticipation, I awaited President Obama’s inauguration speech. As I have listened over the years to many presidents speak, I waited for a call to action. Most years, we were lucky to hear a couple of words that referred in passing to the need to “secure the borders” (at the cost of 18 billion dollars in 2012) or the “rule of law” (after laws were passed in Congress to make it difficult if not impossible to keep families together and for employers to hire skilled workers).
We’ve all known of the needs of the vast number of people who have been living in the US for many years. The cause of immigration reform has been taken up by individuals, families, attorneys, churches, social groups, businesses for profit and non-profit, politicians – the list goes on and on. Everyone (well almost everyone) agrees that the system is broken. Immigration laws do not meet the needs of the United States in an increasingly interconnected world. The flame of the lady has drawn generations of immigrants seeking a better future to our shores, through the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This idea has helped our young nation to be exceptional among a world of states. The idea of equality inspires and is embodied by the flame. As citizens of America, it is our duty to ensure that we do not allow the flame to be extinguished.
I am an immigration lawyer married to my wife Iris from Honduras; together we have two young US citizen boys. My father was from Colombia and my mother from Belgium. Each year, I have believed that this is the year for immigration reform. Let’s make 2013 the year that President Obama’s call for a journey takes us back to the ideas which founded this nation. America is and always has been a land of immigrants.
- Mario Ramos, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee, AILA Leadership Blog
7) “Hello ma'am! This is one of your MAVNIs. I am happy to see you here. I want to thank you for all of the things you've done for us. This opportunity has changed my life for the better; taught me the things that I would have otherwise not learned. I have been accepted at a grad school in Washington DC as well as its ROTC program so excited about this prospect. The Army has been good to me and I am planning on staying in for quite a while.”
Translation: This enlisted Army soldier, whom Dan Kowalski, an AILA member from Texas, helped on a pro bono basis through AILA MAP about three years ago, is now going to be an officer in the US Army, after he finishes grad school in DC. Given the nature of the legal issues involved in this soldier’s case, things could have turned out much differently. Dan Kowalski’s expert help made all the difference to this soldier.
You may think the case you take is just another small immigration matter that will only take a few hours of your time, but it can be a life-changing matter for the military members whom you help.
Margaret Stock, Author of Immigration Law & the Military
6) It was a frantic Tuesday with voters lining up in the early morning to cast their votes in another historic election. Media coverage lit up the screens of homes and businesses across the nation, social media crowded the internet and pundits began their analyses. By the time night had descended on this great nation, even as some votes were still being counted in Florida, the message was clear: Democrats would return their candidate to the White House for a second term. It was a bitter pill for Republicans to swallow, even Fox News had a fit of denial, as they continued to scrutinize “the numbers” and began the blame game.
Reports showed that President Barack Obama captured an astounding 71 percent of the Latino vote. That translated to a 44 percentage-point advantage over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who won just 27 percent of the Latino vote–down from Republican shares of 31 percent in 2008, 44 percent in 2004 and 35 percent in 2000. President Obama also picked up 93% of the African American vote and 73% of the Asian American vote.
The message was clear. Not only do the political parties need to wake up to the changing demographics of our nation, but the nature of the American discourse on immigration must change. Winning the Latino vote requires consideration of tone, respect, and connection with the community.
Understanding Latinos necessarily involves connecting with our community. That means making sincere efforts to incorporate and interact with the fastest growing minority group in the United States. Embracing Latino political candidates is a start, but not an end in and of itself. Understanding, believing and advocating for issues that are important to the Latino community is certainly the right road to travel. These issues are not Democratic or Republican. They are American.
- Victor Nieblas Pradis and Annaluisa Padilla, AILA Leadership Blog
5) AILA’s National Pro Bono Services Committee took a kernel of an idea in 2010 and turned it into a great tradition! In June 2012, twenty-five AILA attorneys provided consultations to over 200 individuals beginning early on Saturday morning at Hillcrest United Methodist Church. Our Nashville partner, Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) of Tennessee, was extremely well prepared for the clinic, performing extensive community outreach, developing wonderful materials and handling every detail with an overall amazing level of on-the-ground organization.
The attendees hailed from myriad countries had a variety of case types. AILA attorneys were busy not only reviewing the law but also seeking counsel from mentors at the clinic. The clinic featured volunteers from a variety of chapters. Both newer practitioners and AILA veteran experts participated, including AILA celebrity Ira Kurzban! It was incredibly heartwarming to see the enthusiasm with which the attorneys did consultation after consultation for over three hours until every person waiting was seen.
As the clinic took place within 24 hours of President Obama’s announcement about deferred action for certain immigrant youth, the clinic provided an unexpected opportunity to analyze cases that may become eligible for that program.
-Mark Shmueli, Past Chair of AILA National’s Pro Bono Committee
4) Last October, I had an unbelievably good weekend. That Friday, I went to Oakdale, Louisiana as a member of the LSU Law Immigration Clinic and defended my client from deportation. Despite my inability to ask non-leading questions and sudden, unexplained fear of public speaking, the judge found in favor of my client. Following the hearing, I drove straight to the airport and jumped on a plane to Washington, D.C. for the Equal Justice Works Conference. Once there, I met Gail Pendleton, my future supervisor, who could not believe that I won in Oakdale Immigration Court (I left out all of the many things that went wrong). Gail and I discussed her idea for a project regarding tort suits against ICE and CBP for sexual assault to non-citizen women. She offered me a summer internship at ASISTA working with her on this project along with Ellen Kemp of the National Immigration Project. I enthusiastically accepted the offer.
A few months after this inspiring weekend, I received an announcement about the Maggio Fellowship. In seven days, I whipped together my application and project proposal and miraculously managed to email it to Susan Timmons on time. I had serious doubts as to whether I would be chosen for the position, so I was extremely happy to be proven wrong when I received Susan's email congratulating me on being the 2012 Maggio Fellow. With a half-hour left in class, I packed up my stuff and promptly went to The Chimes for a celebratory drink, after forwarding the email to everyone in my family.
The experience was absolutely amazing. Although initially I felt I was entirely unqualified to write a tool-kit for Bivens and FTCA claims for non-citizen survivors of sexual assault, Gail and Ellen granted me a huge amount of creative control over the project. I had the opportunity to interview leading experts in relevant fields for the project. I hope to use the skills developed from the internship with ASISTA, the Immigration Clinic, and Family Law Clinic to bring FTCA and Bivens claims on behalf of non-citizen survivors of sexual assault.
I know I'm biased but I'm pretty sure it was the best internship experience ever.
-Sarah McDonagh, 2012 Maggio Fellow
3)“Pro bono and for that matter, any kind of public service can be very gratifying personally, but even if you do not catch the bug right away, it is enlightened self-interest to participate in pro bono. Those who engage in and lead pro bono programs are or have access to the leaders of the legal and business communities. They can become a valuable resource as you develop your career, provide wonderful networking opportunities and can sometimes even lead to employment opportunities and referrals. Sometimes it is just interesting, fun and gratifying. Imagine how the associate at my firm must have felt when he called the Iraqi translator, who he was representing to advise that his application for asylum was granted and was told by the translator that he received this news while on the Staten Island Ferry passing right by the Statue of Liberty.”
2) When I first met Marcos Nieves it was in 2008 while I was working at Catholic Charities. He asked if I could provide legal advice for his documentary student film. The documentary, Almost American, followed the plight of Gloria, an undocumented graduate of Harvard University who was unable to find a job because of her status. I soon realized the entire film crew working on the documentary was a remarkable group of undocumented individuals.
Four years later, I saw Marcos and a few others from the film crew again. It was now 2012 and DACA had recently passed. When I asked Marcos what he felt, he said, "I feel blessed and very fortunate to have the opportunity to apply for Deferred Action. This will positively impact my life…. if I get approved, I will have a fair opportunity to pursue my goals and reward all the sacrifices and struggles my parents encountered through this journey. I will be able exercise my skills and start my career that has been placed on hold."
Similar to Gloria's situation in Almost American, Marcos, a college graduate is unable to pursue his career and aspirations in film because of his undocumented status. "My passion is to make a positive impact in the life of others through visual storytelling. DACA is giving me a shot at pursing the dream I have cherished. Although DACA does not grant lawful immigration status or any benefits for our parents, it gives a dose of hope to thousands of undocumented youth that lived in the shadows to pursue the American Dream in the nation of opportunities."
I am honored to continue to help Marcos and others achieve this dream and proud of AILA and the Pro Bono committee that promotes attorneys to give back to others.
-Diana G. Fakhrai, Co-Chair of the SoCal AILA Chapter New Member Division
1) "There's never a dull moment at an AILA annual conference, is there?" That's what I was thinking the (super) early morning of June 15, 2012, just hours before President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Always up for a challenge, the conference-weary AILA National staff sprung into action immediately, writing press releases and consumer advisories, covering meetings and scheduling press interviews, all days before we left Nashville to return home to Washington, DC.
As an association, AILA was ecstatic about this news, as were our members and their clients. Many AILA and AIC departments have worked tireless hours over the past six months to make sure that immigration practitioners had the information and resources they needed to provide high quality legal assistance to their DREAMer clients, and to be ready to file DACA applications on August 15, 2012.
It became clear very quickly that AILA was a critical partner in this work, and the only organization that could mobilize the private immigration bar. And boy did our members respond! By mid-September, more than 20 AILA chapters had reported organizing or participating in DACA-related outreach and provision of services. You are truly an incredible group of professionals and the lengths to which you will go to help deserving immigrants are unmatched. It is an honor to work for and with you."
-Susan Timmons, Associate Director of AILA's Practice & Professionalism Center