The U.S. military has historically relied on immigrants to defend and build our nation, but military service members’ need for immigration legal assistance is often overlooked. Moreover, service members often lack the legal and financial resources necessary to navigate the increasingly complex and contentious U.S. immigration system for themselves, their foreign partners, parents, and/or children. In 2022 alone, AILA’s Military Assistance Program (MAP) received more than 800 requests for pro bono immigration assistance. To meet this great need and ensure our service members can focus on their crucial work and not their concern for their family’s immigration future, we must get creative behind the scenes.
Creativity and innovation may not immediately come to mind when talking about military matters. As someone who first worked on these issues for decades from within the military, and who continued that work after retiring from military service, I know firsthand what sort of red tape and obstacles our service members and their families are facing. The good news is that people are thinking creatively and coming together to offer creative solutions.
Recently, the law firm Morgan Lewis successfully litigated three federal class action lawsuits against the US Department of Defense, the US Army, and USCIS. These lawsuits successfully prevented these Federal agencies from delaying and denying the military naturalization applications filed by Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) service members and veterans, who had enlisted in the U.S. military because they had vital language or medical skills. As a result of these lawsuits, more than 2,000 class members have already naturalized. Morgan Lewis now aims to continue assisting the remaining class members on their path to naturalization by coordinating with AILA, the American Immigration Council, and Cascadia Cross-Border Law Group to support the Morgan Lewis Military Immigration Fellowship.
The incoming Military Immigration Fellow, Joanna Kloet, will be based out of Cascadia Cross-Border Law Group in Anchorage, Alaska. She will focus on assisting MAVNI service members by preparing and submitting naturalization applications, as well as preparing class members for, and representing them in, naturalization interviews. She will also support service members and recent veterans with other immigration cases through MAP and with other immigration-related litigation efforts. Attorneys like Joanna are integral to bridging the gap in immigration services for military members.
In addition to this exciting new Fellowship, supported by the generosity of Morgan Lewis, AILA’s Military Committee is developing a webinar series focused on educating military attorneys on immigration matters to increase their ability to take on more service member cases. These webinars are set to be released later this year. If you are interested in lending your knowledge and expertise as an immigration attorney to helping a military service member in need, visit AILA MAP’s website to learn more or contact Erin Lynum, AILA’s Pro Bono Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are thankful for everyone who gives peace of mind to service members through their contributions!