Annual Awards

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As a proud association of the nation's finest immigration attorneys, it is our distinct pleasure to recognize and celebrate the individuals and organizations who have achieved excellence in immigration over the last year. Over the next two weeks, this page will be updated to announce one 2021 AILA Annual Award recipient each day.

AILA 2021 Annual Award Recipients

Advocacy | Human Rights | Diversity & Inclusion | Advancing Practice of Immigration Law | Teaching | Litigation | Young Lawyer | Media | Pro Bono | Mentorship | AILA Service | Founders Award

  • Advocacy Award
    In recognition of outstanding efforts in support of AILA’s legislative agenda.
    • Luis Cortes Romero, Kent, WA
      Luis Cortes Romero Luis Cortes Romero is a living embodiment of immigration advocacy, as he himself received protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and served as co-counsel in the landmark case DHS v. Regents of the University of California before the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to end DACA.
      Read more about Mr. Cortes Romero.
      Watch his award acceptance remarks.

  • Arthur C. Helton Memorial Human Rights Award
    In recognition of outstanding service for advancing the cause of human rights.
    • Elizabeth Jordan, Denver, CO
      Elizabeth Jordan Elizabeth Jordan’s practice focuses on advancing human rights in the United States legal system through trauma-informed, cross-cultural representation of her clients. Ms. Jordan has significant experience at the intersection of immigration law, disability law, and the criminal legal system, and has dedicated her career to working on the front lines of these issues including through zealous representation of death-sentenced prisoners, immigrant children, and immigrants with disabilities locked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
      Read more about Ms. Jordan.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Award
    An organization/firm recognition award for outstanding efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion excellence in the immigration legal profession.
    • Dahlia Walker-Huntington, Hollywood, FL
      Dahlia Walker-Huntington Dahlia Walker-Huntington is an immigration and family lawyer in Hollywood, Florida, and is a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant. Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Mrs. Walker-Huntington is a graduate of Miami Dade College and Florida International University with degrees in Journalism; the University of Miami School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree; and Cornell University with a Diversity and Inclusion Certificate. For more than 20 years she has spoken and written extensively on issues of immigrants’ rights, Jamaican Diaspora affairs, and race and gender equality; and lobbied the U.S. Congress and successive U.S. governments for fair immigration laws.
      Read more about Ms. Walker-Huntington.

  • Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award
    For excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law.
    • Rekha Sharma-Crawford, Kansas City, MO
      Rekha Sharma-Crawford Rekha Sharma-Crawford’s fiery advocacy for immigrant’s rights and devotion to the rule of law has kept her up all night more times than she can count. Her fearlessness has put her in the local, national and even international spotlight as she’s taken on extremely complex and high- profile cases that others have turned away. These cases are complicated further by the state of immigration laws and the court of public opinion.
      Read more about Ms. Sharma-Crawford.



  • Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award
    In recognition of outstanding professors in the area of immigration law.
    • David Thronson, Michigan State University College of Law
      David Thronson David Thronson is the Alan S. Zekelman Professor of International Human Rights Law at the Michigan State University College of Law, and director of the Talsky Center for Human Rights of Women and Children, and cofounder of the Immigration Law Clinic. Professor Thronson previously served as MSU Law’s associate dean for academic affairs and as associate dean for experiential education. Since 2017, he has taught Immigration and Nationality at the University of Michigan Law School. His research focuses on the intersection of family law and immigration law, in particular on the impact of immigration law on children.
      Read more about Professor Thronson.
      Watch his award acceptance remarks.

  • Jack Wasserman Memorial Award
    For excellence in litigation in the field of immigration law.
    • Paul W. Hughes
      Paul Hughes Paul W. Hughes co-chairs the Supreme Court practice at McDermott Will & Emery, and he co-directs the Supreme Court Clinic at the Yale Law School. An experience appellate litigator, Paul has argued at the U.S. Supreme Court nine times. He has argued before en banc sittings of the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits. And he has argued dozens more cases before federal and state appellate courts.
      (Photo Courtesy of Yale Law School)
      Read more about Mr. Hughes.
      Watch his award acceptance remarks.
    • Mary Kenney
      Mary Kenney For twenty-five years, Mary Kenney has worked to protect the rights of noncitizens, combat abusive conduct by immigration agents, and overturn unlawful policies of the immigration agencies. From 2003 to 2020, she was with the American Immigration Council, most recently as Directing Attorney of Litigation, where she engaged in impact litigation and authored numerous practice advisories.
      Read more about Ms. Kenney.

  • Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award
    For outstanding contributions made as a young lawyer in the field of immigration and nationality law.
    • Brittany Faith, Chattanooga, TN
      Brittany Faith Brittany Faith leads GKH’s Immigration Practice Group and has extensive experience serving clients throughout the world with their immigration needs, including family-based immigration petitions, employment-based petitions, and humanitarian relief. She is committed to providing personalized, cost-effective immigration services for her clients around the world and across the United States. In addition to her role at GKH, Ms. Faith serves her community as a leader through her involvement in bar associations. She currently serves as the AILA Midsouth Chapter. She also currently serves on AILA’s Distance Learning Committee and as the Chapter Liaison to the Department of State. She was awarded the AILA Pro Bono Hero award in 2014. Ms. Faith believes in the importance of bar involvement for young lawyers and has served in many leadership roles as part of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD).
      Read more about Ms. Faith.
      Watch her award acceptance remarks.

  • Media Leadership Award
    In recognition of coverage that most accurately depicts immigration, immigrants, and related issues (established 2000).
    • Stuart Anderson
      Stuart Anderson Stuart Anderson is a senior contributor to Forbes Magazine and Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization focusing on trade, immigration, and related issues based in Arlington, Virginia (www.nfap.com). Many of Mr. Anderson’s columns in Forbes referenced AILA efforts and resources, particularly litigation, and his columns have impacted immigration thinkers and influencers inside the beltway and on Capitol Hill in a positive way.
      Read more about Mr. Anderson.

  • Michael Maggio Pro Bono Award
    In recognition of outstanding efforts in providing Pro Bono representation in the immigration field.
    • Margo Cowan, Tucson, AZ
      Margo Cowan Margo Cowan has devoted her life to helping others. As she herself wrote, “All of my adult life has been devoted to giving voice to issues of human rights centered in the borderlands and its peoples. It is a great honor to serve.” Beginning in the late 1960s to early 1970s, Ms. Cowan managed a farm worker strike in San Diego, mentored by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and organized transborder farm workers in the Tijuana-San Diego border region. Between 1976 and 1983, Ms. Cowan co-founded the Sanctuary Movement and established the first in-detention defense project in El Centro, California, which represented approximately 3,000 Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing the wars in Central America and stopped the deportations of the vast majority of these people. She also created a national bond fund.
      Read more about Ms. Cowan.
      Watch her acceptance remarks.

  • Sam Williamson Mentor Award
    For outstanding efforts and excellent counsel to immigration attorneys by providing mentoring assistance (established 1992).
    • Lily Axelrod, Memphis, TN
      Lily Axelrod Lily S. Axelrod is a Spanish-speaking attorney at Siskind Susser, PC, a full-service immigration law firm in Memphis, Tennessee. Her practice focuses on complex removal defense matters. Ms. Axelrod enjoys advising clients and other attorneys about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and has recently joined the IMMpact litigation team bringing mass-action lawsuits to challenge unlawful visa processing delays. Prior to joining Siskind Susser, Ms. Axelrod worked at the intersection of immigration law and criminal defense at Masferrer & Associates in Boston, Massachusetts. She represented clients accused of felonies and misdemeanors before local, state, and federal courts, including appeals and post-conviction relief such as motions for new trial.
      Read more about Ms. Axelrod.
      Watch her acceptance remarks.

  • Susan Quarles AILA Service Excellence Award
    Awarded periodically in recognition of outstanding volunteer services by an AILA member, over a period of several years, in advancing the mission, development, and value of the American Immigration Lawyers Association for its members and the public it serves.
    • Sarah Peterson, Minneapolis, MN
      Sarah Peterson Sarah K. Peterson is the founder of SPS Immigration PLLC based in Minneapolis, MN. Her employment-based practice focuses on physicians, academia, start-ups, and high-tech companies. Ms. Peterson actively participates in AILA efforts on both a local and national level. She currently serves as Chair of AILA’s Department of Labor (DOL) liaison committee since 2017 and has been an active Elected Director on the AILA Board of Governors since 2012. She previously served on AILA National Liaison committees with the California and Nebraska USCIS Service Centers, chaired and served as a member of AILA’s Healthcare Professionals Committee, and chaired the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of AILA.
      Read more about Ms. Peterson.
      Watch her acceptance remarks.

  • The Founders Award
    Awarded periodically to the person or entity who has had the most substantial impact on the field of immigration law or policy in the preceding period.
    • Robert Juceam, New York, NY
      Robert Juceam Robert Juceam, Of Counsel to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, is an integral member of the firm's New York office. He joined the firm in 1966, became a partner in 1974 and Of Counsel to the firm in 2006. Immigration and pro bono service are Mr. Juceam's passions. He joined AILA in 1968, served in various offices at the chapter and national levels, and eventually became AILA President. His vision played an integral role in AILA National's growth and prominence; he himself repeatedly testified before Congress on the bills leading to the 1986 Simpson Mazzoli Act, notably opposing employer sanctions and critiquing the implementing regulations and the failure of Qualified Designated Entities properly to represent the needs of the immigrant poor.
      Read more about Mr. Juceam.
      Watch his acceptance remarks.