AILA Doc. No. 16062034 | Dated June 20, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will award the 2016 Michael Maggio Memorial Pro Bono Award for outstanding efforts in providing pro bono representation in the immigration field to two recipients this year, to the Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project for services to detainees held at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility, and to Adam Rosser, for his work with Syrian refugees. Tala Hartsough, Mary Beth Kaufman, Ilyce Shugall, and Eleni Wolfe-Roubatis will accept the award for the Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project. The award will be presented this week during AILA's Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV.
The Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project was developed in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) re-opening the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, CA, in order to detain up to 400 asylum seekers. This decision created a crisis of representation in an already overwhelmed area. In response, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) and Oakland's Centro Legal de la Raza (Centro Legal), led by Ilyce Shugall and Eleni Wolfe-Roubatis, began an unfunded project to conduct "Know Your Rights" presentations and legal intakes for those detained at Mesa Verde. In July 2015, AILA's Northern California Chapter (AILA NorCal) members, led by Mary Beth Kaufman and Tala Hartsough, in partnership with Centro Legal and CLSEPA, launched the Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project to begin to address the dire need for legal representation.
Through the Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project, bimonthly "Know Your Rights" presentations are done via video to those detained at Mesa Verde, followed by monthly in-person legal screenings staffed by volunteers from Northern and Southern California nonprofits, law school clinics, and AILA members. The Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project provides all pro bono attorneys with support and free legal resources through a dedicated section on the AILA NorCal website, as well as free CLE programs to support pro bono representation in bond and asylum proceedings for those detained at Mesa Verde. The Project has also partnered with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center to provide technical support and mentoring for volunteers.
Adam Rosser, a partner in the Washington, DC, office of Hunton & Williams LLP, helps manage the firm's business immigration practice. A practicing AILA member for more than 15 years, Mr. Rosser commits significant time to pro bono legal work and humanitarian activities helping those affected by the crisis in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. As someone who was once mentored by Michael Maggio on a pro bono case, this award is especially meaningful for Mr. Rosser.
Mr. Rosser's involvement with the refugee crisis began in early October 2015, while he was vacationing in Greece. He witnessed firsthand the thousands of refugees arriving on the beaches of Lesvos in rubber dinghies. Apart from the human suffering he witnessed, what struck him the most was that major NGOs and official government relief personnel were completely absent from the beaches. The only assistance available to the refugees was provided by small groups of untrained volunteers, less than a handful of medical personnel, and tourists. Mr. Rosser quickly determined that he could not turn his back on this terrible situation, and became one of those volunteers. Since that first day volunteering, he has become a strong advocate for refugees fleeing death and persecution in their home countries. Upon returning to the United States, Adam continued his efforts by co-founding Sea of Solidarity, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation (http://www.seaofsolidarity.org/). The initial goal of SoS was to provide immediate lifesaving assistance to refugees arriving on Lesvos, such as food, water, warm clothing and thermal blankets. SoS now funds larger projects in both Greece and Turkey including temporary buildings for medical clinics and maternity centers, and schools and playgrounds for children.
In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Mr. Rosser works on pro bono legal cases, assisting both volunteer organizations and refugees. In one instance, he served as a non-legal advocate for a refugee whose young child had been abducted by human traffickers in Turkey; and in another case he served as immigration counsel for a young documentary filmmaker from Syria who has won major awards despite being stuck in a refugee camp in the Middle East. Mr. Rosser has enthusiastically encouraged others to get involved in helping refugees at home and abroad. He spearheaded a pro bono project between Hunton & Williams and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), with more than 20 lawyers receiving training to represent refugees seeking U.S. resettlement or Special Immigrant Visas.
In April, Mr. Rosser attended AILA's National Day of Action to urge key congressional staffers to support more assistance to Syrian refugees and has met with UNHCR officials in Washington to identify additional ways that he and other AILA members can get involved. He currently serves on the Executive Committee for #DCRally4Refugees, an event that will take place in late August 2016 at the Washington Monument.
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. 16062034.