AILA Presents Laura Lichter and Stephen Manning with the Founders Award

Advocacy Award

Saturday, June 20, 2015

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will award Laura Lichter, of Lichter Immigration, Denver, CO, and Stephen Manning, of Immigrant Law Group, PC, Portland, OR, with the Founders Award, which is given from time to time to the person or entity having the most substantial impact on the field of immigration law or policy. They will receive the award today during AILA's Annual Conference in National Harbor, MD. Last year, when the federal government made the disastrous decision to start incarcerating the children and mothers fleeing from violence and persecution in Central America, a temporary detention facility sprang up in the remote location of Artesia, NM. The site was three hours from the nearest major city or immigration lawyer. AILA members couldn't stand by and watch due process thrown out the window by a government eager to ship asylum-seeking kids and moms back to danger. Early on, groups of AILA lawyers started going to Artesia to see what they could do. Word of the appalling situation there spread rapidly, and before long a project emerged from the scrub brush, and continued until the facility was ultimately closed.

Hundreds of lawyers were involved in this effort, but two lawyers stand out for their incredible leadership: Laura Lichter and Stephen Manning. They led by example, devoting countless hours and resources themselves to serving the families in Artesia, while also begging, pestering, and encouraging other AILA members to put their lives on hold and volunteer in droves.

They were the faces of the Artesia project, empowering others to also speak up and speak out. Mr. Manning developed the database that would form the core of the project, while Ms. Lichter acted as the soul and voice of the project, negotiating and demanding that the project had the access it needed to effectively represent these families in the most challenging conditions any of the project attorneys had ever seen. AILA is fond of saying that the Artesia project grew organically, but these two stalwart leaders were primarily the organs that made it grow. Because of them and the colleagues they led, hundreds of children and their mothers, who were already the victims of great trauma, were freed from detention.

Laura Lichter is a Past President of AILA and has been an elected member of AILA's national leadership for over a decade. She has served on AILA liaison committees for the Dept. of Homeland Security and Dept. of Justice, including ICE and EOIR. She was AILA's liaison to the American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration and serves on the Federal Bar Association's Immigration Law Section Advisory Board. Ms. Lichter recently served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) Task Force on ICE's Secure Communities program, reporting to findings on the ICE enforcement initiative to DHS. Based in Denver, her practice focuses on the representation of foreign nationals in removal proceedings, contested family and naturalization applications, administrative appeals, and related federal district and appellate court litigation. A nationally-recognized mentor and immigration expert, Ms. Lichter is a respected author who lectures throughout the U.S. on cutting edge immigration issues. Her commitment to community outreach, education, pro bono representation of indigent clients, and access to counsel has been demonstrated through various awards, projects, and related initiatives. She is an avid equestrian, runner, and part-time rancher.

Stephen W. Manning is an attorney in Portland, Oregon. He is a founding partner of Immigrant Law Group PC and founder and director of the Innovation Law Lab, a non-profit that uses technology and best practices to create new capacity in immigration legal practice. He is an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Oregon. He is the recipient of the 2010 Jack Wasserman Memorial Award for Excellence in immigration litigation as chair of the AILA Amicus Committee and the 2009 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for Excellence in Advancing the Practice of Immigration Law. He is a former Commissioner for the City of Portland's Human Rights Commission. He is the author of several amicus briefs, practice advisories and the author and publisher of Ending Artesia: The Artesia Report, available at He is past chair of the AILA Amicus Committee and past chair of the Oregon AILA chapter. Mr. Manning is a member of the AILA Board of Governors (2012-2015); a member of the Board of Directors of Health Bridges International, a nonprofit engaged in international capacity building in medical work; a former board member of Immigration Counseling Service, a nonprofit in Oregon; and the Northwest Speak Out Project, a nonprofit engaged in community based education on sexual minorities. He was a volunteer with the AILA-AIC Artesia Pro Bono Project and is a volunteer with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project. He is the author of a mystery novel, Broken Spanish Bones. He lives with his husband, James Wilson, in Portland in a home they designed and built.


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. 15062097.