AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Presents Margo Cowan with the 2021 Michael Maggio Memorial Pro Bono Award

6/4/21 AILA Doc. No. 21060436.
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recognizes Margo Cowan of Tucson, AZ, with the 2021 Michael Maggio Memorial Pro Bono Award for outstanding efforts in providing pro bono representation in the immigration field.

Ms. Cowan has devoted her life to helping others, and 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 & Dolores Huerta and organized transborder farm workers in the Tijuana – San Diego border region. Between 1976 – 1983, Ms. Cowan co-founded the Sanctuary Movement and established the first in-detention defense project in El Centro, California, represented approximately 3000 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.

Ms. Cowan then attended and graduated from the Antioch School Law in Washington, DC and was mentored by the renowned civil rights attorney known for his tireless defense of indigent persons in capital murder cases, Edward Morgan. Upon graduation, she directed the Horizontes Program, a project of the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, DC focusing on organizing undocumented youth in various social action initiatives.

She co-founded No More Deaths, a community-based campaign of volunteers organized to help ensure migrants had necessary supplies. In 2010, she founded Keep Tucson Together and has served as a Pima County Public Defender since 1993. She has also managed the Justice for All Campaign in Pima County since 2017, to collect 70,000 signatures from Pima County registered voters to put on the November 2022 ballot the proposal to institutionalize the right to publicly-funded defense counsel for all indigent residents and persons detained in Pima County in removal proceedings.

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.