AILA Presents Professor Vanessa Merton with the 2012 Elmer Fried Excellence Award

Thursday, June 14, 2012
George Tzamaras or Belle Woods
202-507-7649 - 202-507-7675 -

NASHVILLE, TN - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will award Vanessa Merton, a professor of law at Pace University School of Law, with the 2012 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award for outstanding professors in the area of immigration law. She will receive the award today during AILA's Annual Conference in Nashville, TN.

Ms. Merton is a professor of law and the faculty supervisor of the Immigration Justice Clinic of John Jay Legal Services, Inc. at Pace University School of Law. The Immigration Justice Clinic provides pro bono representation and assistance to indigent non-citizens residing in the New York City area.

Established in 2004 and under the direction of Ms. Merton since inception, the Immigration Justice Clinic has encouraged and developed a significant number of immigration law practitioners, as well as attorneys who contribute pro bono immigration services. Under her tutelage, many students who previously had no intention or specific desire to focus on immigration law fully embrace the field, incorporating it into their legal career.

Ms. Merton excels in teaching her students how to be effective attorneys by encouraging a caring rapport between student attorney and client, and placing a substantial emphasis on cross-cultural understanding. She both advocates and requires a client-centered approach to immigration law, stressing the intricacies of the law and its potentially severe consequences to the lives of the clients and their families.

She strongly encourages her students to become actively involved in community outreach to the underserved non-citizen populations of the greater New York City region. For example, students lead "know your rights" programs in soup kitchens and in conjunction with community-based organizations.

Ms. Merton also regularly invites and takes her students to immigration conferences, community policy events, and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) sessions. These occasions provide the students with the opportunity to become a part of the New York immigration community. The students are encouraged to and often become involved in immigration policy advocacy, both locally and nationally, and are also deeply involved with the anti-notario campaigns. Professor Merton's passion for immigration law is infectious and she works hard to ensure that her students are kept on the cutting edge of immigration law.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 12061444.