AILA Doc. No. 16061600 | Dated June 16, 2016
Congratulations to the 2016 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions! These champions have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to pro bono work and have made a significant impact on the immigrant communities they serve.
Allison Lukanich, Carolinas Chapter
Allison Lukanich is an Associate Attorney at Melo & Rojas PLLC in Raleigh, NC. Allison has volunteered multiple times at the Artesia detention center and the Karnes detention center. Her dedication to representing detained families at both the trial and appellate level has inspired other members of her chapter to travel to Dilley and Karnes and take on similar cases.
Elon Law School Humanitarian Immigration Clinic, Carolinas Chapter
In March 2015, the Elon University School of Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic participated in a “Spring Break in Detention” trip, providing pro bono legal services in the Karnes detention center. Though they faced obstructionist tactics by the GEO Group, they persevered, providing invaluable legal services and continued the clinic’s tradition of working with survivors of torture and sexual violence. The students are an inspiration to their fellow students and lawyers in our community, demonstrating the true spirit of leadership and service.
Karen Winston, Central Florida Chapter
Karen Winston is the founder of the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Inc. Baker County Defense Project which provides free legal services and direct representation for low-income immigrants detained at the Baker County Detention Center. The Central Florida Chapter selected Karen as the 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her tireless efforts to provide pro bono representation to needy immigrants facing deportation from the US. Karen often works 70 hours a week and presents "Know Your Rights" presentations, advocates for improved living conditions and medical treatment, and provides full and limited representation before the USCIS and EOIR. Karen also co-authored a report, "Expose and Close," about the conditions at Baker County Detention Center (BCDC). Karen’s efforts are critical to crime victims, asylum-seekers, survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking victims detained in Baker County.
Christopher Elmore, Chicago Chapter
Christopher Elmore is a new attorney and solo practitioner who, in the throes of trying to get his law practice off the ground, went to the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico from September 14-20, 2014 to volunteer with AILA. He returned for a second round of volunteering on the ground from March 21-26, 2015 at the detention center in Dilley, Texas. In between trips, he was an active volunteer with the Chicago Chapter’s Remote Bond Project, providing remote assistance to the AILA pro bono projects in Artesia and Dilley by contacting potential “bond sponsors” to provide supporting documents, translating documents, and drafting bond motions on behalf of the mothers being detained by ICE in Artesia and Dilley.
Law Offices of Robert D. Ahlgren & Associates, P.C., Chicago Chapter
The Law Offices of Robert D. Ahlgren & Associates, P.C. has donated the time of six attorneys (Monica E. Eav, Kathleen M. Vannucci, Victoria Carmona Fehr, Tess E. Feldman, Giovanna Valdez, and Lindsay Wunrow) to volunteer at Artesia and Dilley. Monica and Kathleen founded the Chicago Remote Bond Project in September 2014, a project that remains in effect today. The firm is also assisting unaccompanied minors and women and children referred by the CARA project who are residing near Chicago in their asylum applications.
Leigh Alpert, Colorado Chapter
Leigh Alpert has taken on the role of coordinating citizenship clinics through the Ya Es Hora project, which is a non-partisan civic action campaign that informs, educates and motivates eligible lawful permanent residents to apply for US citizenship. The program has grown at an incredible rate, and Leigh has recruited, coordinated and trained a number of volunteer attorneys to provide assistance at these clinics. She has done an outstanding job to rally AILA attorneys to attend clinics as volunteers all over the state, and has been an excellent resource in promoting this program in Colorado.
Ellen Messali, Connecticut Chapter
Ellen Messali is responsible for coordinating all pro bono volunteers through the International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN). She provides mentoring services (and arranges other mentors for new attorneys), supervises many cases herself, and coordinates both translators and the use of meeting space at IICONN. Ellen also conducts trainings with mental health professionals to act as experts in asylum cases. She has provided additional trainings for attorneys through her AILA chapter, the Center for Children’s Advocacy, and the Connecticut Bar Association regarding immigration relief available to children.
Elizabeth Matherne, Georgia-Alabama Chapter
Elizabeth Matherne is in solo practice in Cumming, Georgia. The Georgia-Alabama Chapter selected Elizabeth as its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champion because she initiated, developed, executed and oversaw the chapter’s new Attorney of the Day Program in which she trained, scheduled and supervised attorneys to counsel unrepresented UAC’s and their guardians at the Atlanta Immigration Court on a pro bono basis. The program has been a huge success and has helped tens of UACs since the fall of 2015. Elizabeth also organized mock hearings at both the Atlanta and Stewart Immigration Courts that were both well attended. In addition, she supervised several attorneys who took on pro bono representation of mentally ill detainees in proceedings at the Stewart Immigration Court.
Heather Conder, Idaho Chapter
Heather Conder is an associate attorney at CK Quade Law in Boise, Idaho. The Idaho Chapter selected Heather as its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her compassion and dedication to a particularly arduous pro bono asylum case. Heather volunteered to handle the case in 2014 as a referral from the University of Idaho, College of Law Immigration Clinic. An attorney new to asylum practice, Heather diligently stuck with the case for two years. Throughout the matter, Heather was very generous with her time, working on weekends when necessary to accommodate her vulnerable client’s schedule. Ultimately, Heather’s hard work paid off and the applicant was recently granted asylum.
Andrade Legal, Idaho Chapter
The Idaho Chapter has selected Andrade Legal as one of its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions for the countless hours and resources it has dedicated to ending family detention. Maria Andrade has made several trips to Dilley, as well as previous trips to Artesia. She has also been heavily involved in planning and strategizing at the national level to end family detention. She sent four associate attorneys and a legal assistant to Dilley and Artesia (some of them several times). Andrade Legal has also continued to represent pro bono mothers and children seeking asylum from Central America, including a case currently pending before the 10th Circuit.
Christie Popp, Indiana Chapter
Christie Popp is in solo practice in Bloomington, Indiana. The Indiana Chapter selected Christie as its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her career-long dedication to pro bono work. Christie formed and operated a non-profit pro bono legal advice clinic, which was established to help Latinos in Bloomington, Indiana. Twice a month, Christie recruited private attorneys to volunteer to provide legal advice. In addition, Christie also found the time to serve as a moderator on both the AILA Message Center (for U and T visas) and the Immigration Advocates Pro Bono Listserv (VAWA, U and T Issues and Public Benefits).
Julia Cryne, Iowa/Nebraska Chapter
Advanced Immigration Law & Policy Project, University of Iowa Collega of Law, Iowa/Nebraska Chapter
Homero Lopez, MidSouth Chapter
Homero Lopez works at Catholic Charities of New Orleans in Metairie, Louisiana. The MidSouth Chapter selected Homero as one of its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of his incredible dedication to providing pro bono legal services to the immigrant community within our chapter. For the first time ever, there will be a program in our region which has funded his agency to represent over 1,000 children in removal proceedings who reside in Louisiana, parts of Mississippi and Alabama. His project will be a pilot program of what amounts to a public defender program for children in immigration proceedings. Homero will be the managing supervisor for 13 new attorneys. In addition, Homero has provided many hours of pro bono service to the detained immigrant population in our state.
Kathleen Gasparian, MidSouth Chapter
Kathleen Gasparian is in solo practice in New Orleans, Louisiana. The MidSouth Chapter selected Kathleen as one of its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her outstanding work spearheading the Pro Bono and Juveniles Project. This project organized the local immigration and family law bar associations to generate awareness of SIJS and of the dire circumstances under which many immigrant children are fleeing their home countries. The project had a profound effect on the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court, which implemented procedures that facilitated access for Jefferson Parish's children to this important benefit and has served as a model for other courts throughout the state. Kathleen provided this pro bono leadership in an effort that has had a life-changing impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of children and the pro bono attorneys assisting them.
Kim Hunter, Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter
Kim Hunter is a private practitioner in Minnesota. The Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter selected her as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her commitment to representing unaccompanied minors and children in detention centers in Artesia and Dilley. Kim made seven trips to these facilities between 2014 and 2015, and she has not only advocated for her clients on an individual basis, but also publicized the conditions at these centers in outlets such as Fox News Latino and the Hill. Her relentless advocacy has directly benefited many families and her willingness and ability to publicize the ongoing incarceration of women and children seeking refuge from cartel murders and unchecked domestic violence is critical in raising awareness about detention facilities. Kim deserves to be recognized as a leader in our chapter’s pro bono efforts.
Arlene Rivera, Nevada Chapter
Arlene Riviera is in private practice and teaches at UNLV. The Nevada Chapter selected her as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of the service she has provided to vulnerable immigrants by creating the Immigrant Justice Initiative (IJI). IJI is a collaboration of attorneys, professors and community activists providing free and low-cost legal services on a means tested basis to immigrants with viable cases or whose cases can impact local, regional and national adjudicatory policy. Largely from her own funds, she has also taken leave from private practice and from teaching to volunteer to represent unaccompanied minors in Artesia, New Mexico, and led recruitment efforts to urge others to do the same at the Dilley and Karnes facilities in south Texas. Arlene’s compassion and commitment to unrepresented vulnerable immigrants is exemplary and deserving of our recognition.
Megan Kludt, New England Chapter
Megan Kludt was selected by the New England Chapter as one of this year’s Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her dedication to the community. Megan has been recognized by her colleagues as truly embodying the heart of pro bono service. In her extensive service to the women and children detained at Dilley through her support of the CARA Family Detention Project, she has demonstrated leadership and excellent mentorship and support of attorneys interested in doing pro bono work. Her generosity of time and spirit evidenced in that mentorship have distinguished her among her colleagues.
Frank Johnson, New England Chapter
Frank Johnson was selected by the New England Chapter as one of this year’s Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of his outstanding impact on the community. Frank went to Dilley 7 times to represent detained women and children. His dedication of significant time and resources to support the efforts of the CARA Family Detention Project deserves recognition and praise from our chapter. His tireless service to immigrant communities and his support and mentorship of other pro bono attorneys distinguishes him among his colleagues.
Marilyn C. Levy, New Jersey Chapter
Marilyn Levy has been a volunteer with the Centro Comunitario CEUS, a non-profit community based organization that serves Hispanic immigrants and their families in northern New Jersey. The New Jersey Chapter selected Marilyn as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her significant contributions to Centro Comunitario CEUS. The organization focuses on educational, community development and cultural activities, and it has provided immigration legal services for the last 15 years. Marilyn has made exemplary contributions to Centro Comunitario CEUS, deserving of recognition from her peers.
Kathrine Russell, New York Chapter
Kathrine “Kat” Russell is an experienced practitioner with the Brooklyn Defender Service focusing on work involving unaccompanied minors in New York City. The New York Chapter selected Kathrine as one of its two 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her dedication and generous contributions to the New York Chapter Children’s Docket for Unaccompanied Minors (a joint initiative with EOIR) for over 8 years. She frequently mentors less experienced attorneys and assists with developing legal strategies. The chapter’s volunteer attorneys have repeatedly expressed deep appreciation for the assistance that Kathrine so generously provides.
Danny Alicea, New York Chapter
Danny Alicea is the Fragomen Fellow at the New York City Bar Justice Center. The New York Chapter selected him as one of its two 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of his significant contributions as coordinator of the New York City Immigrant Advocacy Initiative (NYCIAI) free clinics. Danny has been described as a “logistics whiz” who works directly with various community groups to organize events, assess language needs or other special needs, and arrange volunteer attorneys to staff the clinics. The NYCIAI has attracted numerous repeat volunteers and interest from community groups as a direct result of Danny’s contributions.
Nadeen Aljijakli, Ohio Chapter
Nadeen Aljijakli is a partner at Aljijakli & Kosseff, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. The Ohio Chapter selected Nadeen as one if its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions for the incredible assistance she has provided to those fleeing violence in Syria. Nadeen responded almost daily, on a pro bono basis, to individuals and families facing life-threatening situations due to the violence in Syria. She took on numerous challenging Syrian asylum, TPS, and family-based immigration cases pro bono. She successfully represented Syrians in their applications for asylum in Cleveland, Chicago, Newark, Arlington, Houston, and Miami. She served as a legal resource to local organizations including the International Institute of Education (IIE) and the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OH). Finally, Nadeen has mentored dozens of other immigration attorneys handling Syrian asylum claims across the country.
Law Firm of Jennifer I. Peyton, Ohio Chapter
The Ohio Chapter selected The Law Firm of Jennifer I. Peyton as one if its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions for the incredible assistance the firm has provided to the local community. The firm is a private law office, but in reality, it provides services in a manner similar to a nonprofit organization. Jenna Peyton, Dan Natalie, Sara Hastings, and Yolanda Botti-Lodovico strongly support nonprofit legal services agencies, and do their part as members of the private bar to provide pro bono services to the immigrant community. When a respondent cannot afford to pay for legal services or a non-profit agency has a case that is too complicated to handle, Jenna, Dan, Sara, and Ellen often take the case pro bono. Known for their generosity and expert legal minds, Jenna and Dan mentor dozens of attorneys. In 2015, the firm sent an attorney to Dilley on three separate occasions and tirelessly promoted the work of the CARA Family Detention Project, encouraging dozens of Ohio attorneys to donate their time and money to assist children and women in detention.
Valentine Brown, Philadelphia Chapter
Valentine Brown is a Partner at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Chapter selected Valentine as its Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her leadership and contributions to the immigration community. Valentine served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Chapter’s Pro Bono Committee and co-chair of the committee’s signature project, AILA Citizenship Day, where she served as an organizer, trainer, mentor, and volunteer attorney. Valentine is the founder of the Duane Morris Violence Against Women Act Pro Bono Practice Group and regularly mentors attorneys who participate in Immigration IMPACT, a city-wide initiative to increase access to legal services for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. In addition to her pro bono work, Valentine has been a constant advocate for immigrants, writing and speaking to highlight issues important to the immigrant community in Philadelphia.
Adam Rosser, Rome-EMEA Chapter
Adam Rosser is in private practice with Hunton and Williams, LLP. The Rome-EMEA Chapter has selected Adam as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because he has been a beacon of light in providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees. He works closely with the International Refugee Assistance Project (“IRAP”) to promote access to legal representation for refugees identified for resettlement in the US in the same way that asylum applicants have access to representation before appearing in front of the USCIS. He has been especially dedicated to the case of a Syrian woman whose child may have been abducted in a trafficking scheme along a migrant route. He is a co-founder and Director of Sea of Solidarity, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization promoting humanitarian relief for refugees in Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon. Adam’s work illustrates how AILA members can help refugees, distinguishing him for this award.
Teodora Purcell, San Diego Chapter
Teodora Purcell is a senior associate in the San Diego office of Fragomen Worldwide. She was selected as a 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion because has spent the last six years doing pro bono work for the Casa Cornelia Law Center, which provides free legal help to victims of human and civil rights violations. Teodora has organized legal clinics for the organization’s domestic violence program and its children’s program, which specializes in representing detained unaccompanied children. She has also recruited multiple colleagues to volunteer at Casa Cornelia and she champions the organization’s human-rights mission at conferences and panel discussions. Teodora is widely admired and respected by her colleagues for her zealous commitment to pro bono work as well as her keen legal skills.
Alex Kannan, San Diego Chapter
Alex Amar Kannan is an attorney with the Law Offices of Alex Amar Kannan. The San Diego Chapter selected Alex as one of its Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of the pro bono services he provides through the Immigration Justice Project of San Diego. Most notably, he represented a transgender woman from Mexico in withholding-only proceedings, after an illegal reentry. The case was labor intensive, involving a three-day long merits hearing before Alex and his client ultimately prevailed.
Merle Kahn, Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Merle Kahn is Of Counsel at the Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield in San Jose, California. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter chose Merle as one of its Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her innovative ideas and successful pro bono efforts. Merle is the attorney primarily responsible for starting the highly regarded AILA/JFS pro bono legal clinic in Los Gatos, California. Thanks to her initiative, AILA now provides attorneys and legal expertise in collaboration with Jewish Family Services. JFS markets the clinic, obtains the clients, and provides basic infrastructure. The incredibly successful clinic Merle founded now meets regularly to focus on filing adjustment applications and naturalization applications for refugees and asylees. The clinic has helped hundreds of families obtain relief, including many from Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet Union.
Amanda Alvarado Ford, Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Amanda Alvarado Ford is an immigration attorney and Immigration Program Coordinator at La Raza Centro Legal of San Francisco. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter selected Amanda as one of its Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her commitment to the pro bono efforts of the chapter and community. Amanda has been recognized previously by AILA for her pro bono work and currently serves as the Santa Clara Valley Chapter’s pro bono liaison, a volunteer position she has held since 2014. Amanda also ran the chapter's 2015 Citizenship Day and ensured representation for a large number of immigrant clients who can now have their voices heard in the upcoming presidential election and in our country’s future.
Mary Mucha, Southern California Chapter
Mary Mucha is the Directing Attorney of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigration Legal Assistance Project. The Southern California Chapter selected Mary as its Chapter Pro Bono Champion because of her significant influence on the immigration community in southern California. Mary is a long-standing AILA member and frequent speaker at AILA CLE seminars. Under her guidance, the Immigration Legal Assistance Project has provided immigration legal services to over 12,500 indigent immigrants. Mary organizes community events, such as Law Day, and attorney pro bono clinics. She has an open door policy to all immigration attorneys who need advice, and provides internships for young aspiring immigration attorneys.
Virginia Raymond, Texas Chapter
Virginia Raymond is an attorney in private practice in Austin, Texas. She is a tireless champion for the disenfranchised in every arena, but especially for immigrants. In addition to her work with detained families at Karnes (she volunteers there on a weekly basis and once had five pro bono merits hearings in two weeks), she has represented the Mexican Consulate in Austin, Texas in the lawsuit regarding the denial of birth certificates to US born children with undocumented parents, and she has been actively involved in the fight against the licensing of family detention centers in Texas. She is a pillar of social justice for immigrants both in the field of litigation and advocacy and the TX, NM, OK Chapter is proud to recognize her as its Chapter Pro Bono Champion this year.
Barbara Weiner, Upstate New York Chapter
Barbara Weiner recently retired after a career devoted to assisting low-income clients. She was an expert particularly on the intersection between immigration law and public benefits eligibility. In addition to being a staff attorney at the Empire Justice Center in Albany, Barbara served as legal counsel for the local Office for New Americans Opportunity Center under a grant awarded by the New York Department of State. She was a founding member of a local grassroots organization, Capital Region Immigration Collaborative, which brings together immigration attorneys and non-profit organizations with a common goal of serving the indigent and low-income immigrant community. The Upstate New York Chapter is proud to recognize Barbara as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion.
Van Doan, Washington D.C. Chapter
Van Doan is the managing partner of the Law Offices of Van T. Doan, LLC. The Washington D.C. Chapter selected Van as one of its Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her dedication to helping others, particularly minor children. Van dedicates her pro bono efforts towards ensuring competent representation for all SIJ clients by increasing SIJ awareness among state court judges, educating immigration law practitioners about SIJ, and advocating for due process for SIJ clients in state court. Her efforts to educate others are extensive; she provides seminars to attorneys and judges, offers online training through the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC), and mentors attorneys who accept SIJ cases. She also advocates for the due process rights of SIJ clients by engaging members of the bench, raising important issues including how the courts process these cases.
Maryland Immigrant Rights Coalition, Washington D.C. Chapter
The Maryland Immigrant Rights Coalition (MIRC) is an important community resource. The Washington D.C. Chapter selected MIRC as one of its Chapter Pro Bono Champions to recognize the significant contribution it has made to Maryland’s immigrant communities, particularly through the Eastern Shore Legal Clinic. During this clinic, MIRC performed DACA/DAPA screenings for 145 clients. Most clients also had the opportunity to listen to a presentation warning participants about immigration services fraud, and all received information in their first language. The time invested in the planning and execution of this clinic by MIRC members, key local partner staff from the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center and volunteers totaled close to one thousand hours. The documents created for this event and those gathered from other sources remain available for any organization in the area planning future legal fairs around administrative relief.
Liya Djamilova, Washington Chapter
Liya Djamilova is in solo practice. The Washington State Chapter selected Liya as one of its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of her hard work in creating, setting up and coordinating the Attorney-of-the-Day project at the Northwest Detention Center. Taking months and a great deal of persistence to set up, the Attorney-of-the-Day project began serving detainees this past November. Three days a week, volunteer attorneys sign up to give free advice to any detainees on the master calendar and bond hearing dockets. The attorney of the day can represent the detainee in bond proceedings or at the MCH without entering an appearance for the case, or, on occasion, may take a case to the merits. Two to ten individuals are assisted per day by this project and fifteen AILA-WA members volunteer on at least a monthly basis to this worthwhile cause spearheaded by Liya and Michael Tisocco.
Michael Tisocco, Washington Chapter
Michael Tisocco is in solo practice. The Washington State Chapter selected Michael as one of its inaugural Chapter Pro Bono Champions because of his hard work in creating, setting up and coordinating the Attorney-of-the-Day project at the Northwest Detention Center. Taking months and a great deal of persistence to set up, the Attorney-of-the-Day project began serving detainees this past November. Three days a week, volunteer attorneys sign up to give free advice to any detainees on the master calendar and bond hearing dockets. The attorney of the day can represent the detainee in bond proceedings or at the MCH without entering an appearance for the case, or, on occasion, may take a case to the merits. Two to ten individuals are assisted per day by this project and fifteen AILA-WA members volunteer on at least a monthly basis to this worthwhile cause spearheaded by Michael and Liya Djamilova.
Gail McCarthy, Wisconsin Chapter
To honor her significant contributions to pro bono as an attorney and as a Wisconsin Chapter leader, the Wisconsin Chapter has selected Gail as its 2016 Chapter Pro Bono Champion. Gail recently retired from the practice of law but performed pro bono service throughout her legal career. She played a leading role in the Wisconsin Chapter’s pro bono initiatives and served as a Wisconsin Chapter pro bono liaison for many years. Gail also helped start the Wisconsin AILA Chapter’s pro bono programs with Catholic Charities and with the Marquette University Law School’s Volunteer Clinic, and wrote significant portions of the grant application submitted to obtain funding to launch the pro bono initiative with Catholic Charities. Gail is a talented and spirited advocate, and she encourages the Wisconsin Chapter members to approach pro bono with the same energy and devotion.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16061600.