Professional Resources

2019 Chapter Pro Bono Champions

6/18/19 AILA Doc. No. 19061831.


Katharine Ruhl

Katharine Ruhl began her work with the Florence Project in 2007 and has been advocating for immigrant rights before EOIR, the BIA, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since that time. She pioneered the representation of detained victims of domestic violence and has helped numerous clients receive asylum based on past severe domestic abuse. As the Florence Project's pro bono mentor, she has paired detained adults with law firms and practitioners and has mentored attorneys throughout their representation of their clients. Her work has ensured that hundreds of clients have received representation before immigration judges. Both pro bono attorneys and clients report that Katie's work to help develop the record and present the claim has been invaluable.


Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb provides pro bono removal defense to the children he represents in immigration proceedings by providing pro bono removal defense. He represented children for Catholic Charities and assists the representatives at Catholic Charities so they can provide free services to as many children and families as possible. Robert also assists Pisgah Legal Services and Public Defenders so they can better represent their clients. In these ways, Robert provides access to justice to underserved communities and ensures that others who provide services have the most up-to-date knowledge of the immigration system. Robert goes above and beyond in sharing his knowledge, particularly in the crimmigration area.


Victoria Carmona

Victoria (Vicky) Carmona was one of the two Chicago captains and local coordinators of our Chicago Chapter team delegation to Dilley this past November. She applied her powers of organization and worked with tireless zest to ensure all volunteers were able to be of full support and also volunteered for the full week herself. Upon her return, she shared her experiences and information with our chapter in a very meaningful way.

Lara Wagner

Lara Wagner is a champion of the monthly, ongoing volunteer efforts of our chapter. Every month, the AILA Chicago Chapter staffs the clinic of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services for one evening of drop-in clinic services related to immigration cases. She has tirelessly motivated our chapter members to staff the clinic, month in and month out.


Emily Smith

Emily Smith is a leader in offering pro bono and low bono services to indigent clients. She is selfless when it comes to volunteering her time to pro bono clients, the Committee, and others. She provides mentorship to those in the chapter and has been a great service to the Committee and pro bono community at large and is readily available to help colleagues navigate their careers in the immigration field. Her efforts putting forth creative ideas for pro bono activities, accepting pro bono cases, and actively participating in pro bono activities is inspiring. She also participates on the AILA CO Asylum Committee and works regularly with RMIAN in a pro bono capacity. She deserves recognition for all the work she does for the immigrant community, and specifically the asylum-seeking community here in Colorado.


Beth Boyer

Beth Boyer has been very involved with the AILA Military Assistance Program (MAP) and has taken a number of their cases, going "above and beyond" for those clients. In fact, she drove down to Maryland for one of their interviews - all on a pro bono basis. Beth's husband is a retired captain in the Navy, and her son is in the Navy as well. In addition to her work with service members through the AILA MAP program, she has reached out to some of the recruiting stations and provided pro bono assistance to the recruits. Her actions exemplify what we look for in the "pro bono champion."

Katherine Dwyer

Katherine Dwyer became involved in the Connecticut Chapter because she had already taken on several immigration cases on a pro bono basis and wanted to do all she could to educate herself about our practice, as her full-time job is at the Legislative Office Building. In November 2018, Katherine took on an asylum case referred to her through CIRI and despite her other full-time job (and being a mother of two young children), took an expedited hearing for the client and, as the end of February, successfully represented him. Now that the client is an asylee, Katherine is helping him file the paperwork to bring his wife to the United States. Katherine is very passionate about immigration work and decided that the best way to make a career transition was to just get involved and represent individuals in dire need of her help.


Jorge Gavilanes

The Georgia/Alabama chapter has selected Jorge Gavilanes as Chapter Pro Bono Champion for his work with the monthly Emory Legal Assistance Clinic that started August 2018. Jorge Gavilanes is the lead attorney for the clinic after months of preparation with Emory Law School and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are the sponsors of the clinic. Jorge organizes a group of other local attorneys that volunteer along with Emory Law students to provide free advice and act as point people for the many legal resources available in Atlanta.

Rachel Effron Sharma

The Georgia/Alabama chapter has selected Rachel Effron Sharma as Chapter Pro Bono Champion for her help with GAIN in addition to running her own practice. GAIN lost an asylum attorney and Rachel volunteers there two days per week with their asylum cases to keep them afloat right now during this transitional period. Rachel is also an overwhelmingly wonderful person who does a ton to help the local community and us as her colleagues.


John Robert Egan

A longstanding advocate for public service, John Robert Egan has been actively involved with the local Hawaii immigration pro bono community for over a decade. Within the last year, he has actively worked with UNITE HERE Local 5 in organizing a "Citizenship Workshop" for N-400 naturalization, The Legal Clinic (a Hawaii affiliate of Justice for Our Neighbors), on their community-based citizenship workshops, and served as supervising attorney for asylum cases through the Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Law School.

Catholic Charities Hawaii (CCH)

Catholic Charities Hawaii (CCH), an affiliate of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), provides access to justice to low income immigrants and their families on Oahu and the Island of Hawaii in the area of family immigration. CCH handles about 173 cases per year, providing nominal fee-based/waiver assistance on naturalization, I-130 petitions, removal of conditional status, travel visas, and change of status. The Immigration Services division consists of three individuals who have volunteered and silently worked in this area for many years: Melba Bantay (30+ years), Linda Spencer (25+ years), and Sr. Aurora de la Cruz (7+ years).


Sarah Burrow

Ms. Burrow is a Director at the Indianapolis Law Firm of Lewis Kappes. She is a valued member of the AILA Indiana Chapter and was recently elected the chapter secretary. Sarah is an example to all in the legal community. She has demonstrated her commitment to pro bono activities by volunteering at various events and volunteering with her husband, Brendan, at Dilley in July of 2018. She mentors other attorneys and is always just a phone call away. The Indiana chapter is grateful for her leadership in pro bono activities.


Dearra Godinez

The Iowa-Nebraska Chapter is pleased to announce Dearra Godinez as this year's Pro Bono Champion. Dearra helped coordinate relief efforts during the raid in O'Neil, Nebraska. She met with community members at schools and churches to provide know your rights information, helped coordinate intake of detained immigrants in Nebraska and Iowa, prioritized and assigned detainees to volunteer lawyers and volunteer AILA members for bond hearings, and helped facilitate other outreach and community needs with local and state organizations.


Karla M. McKanders

Karla M. McKanders is a clinical professor of law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. In 2017 she launched the school's first Immigration Practice Clinic, which accepts eight students in the fall semester and includes the option for a second "advanced" semester. The clinic provides students the opportunity to defend clients against deportation in the Memphis Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the federal courts of appeals. After a 2018 ICE raid at a meat packing plant near Morristown, TN, Karla was instrumental in organizing the relief effort by placing a total of 36 cases with pro bono attorneys as well as recruiting and training pro bono attorneys throughout Tennessee and beyond. She has also taken pro bono cases on her own or within the law school clinic and she continues to recruit pro bono attorneys throughout the Chapter.

David Funke

David Funke was part of the litigation team in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) and its predecessor, Fuartado v. Commonwealth, 170 SW3d 384 (Ky). This laid the groundwork for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision which required that counsel advise non-citizens whether a guilty plea to a crime carries a risk of deportation. He was also lead pro bono attorney in Stone v. U.S., 514 U.S. 386 (1995) dealing with the consolidation of motions and appeals, and Thevenot v. Caplinger, an unreported federal case that was used by other litigators and held the government's view of 212(c) was unreasonable and not entitled to deference. He regularly takes pro bono cases and he has taught Immigration Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where he involved students in asylum, special immigrant juvenile, naturalization, denaturalization, and human trafficking cases. He worked with the Jefferson County Attorney's Office and Kentucky Bureau of Investigation to fight against the unlawful practice of law.


Lesley Guyton

Lesley Guyton has a long history of pro bono service to immigrants and refugees and has been an active member of the local AILA chapter, serving on its pro bono committee for three years between 2015 and 2018. Lesley has had a career-long commitment to pro bono service, including founding and staffing the West 7th Community Center free legal immigration clinic twice a month for over 25 years up until 2018. She provided pro se legal guidance for a free Family Unity Legal Clinic; free consultations for residents and guidance for staff at Sarah's Oasis for Women shelter; pro bono representation for several family-based and asylum cases she learned about through local nonprofits; mentorship for numerous pro bono attorneys new to asylum cases through The Advocates for Human Rights. Lesley is a tireless and consummate example of pro bono service and has worked alongside and supported local immigration legal services organizations in Minnesota for decades.

Kevin Heinz

Kevin Heinz regularly helps local immigration legal services organizations serve their clients. He is also a Spanish speaker and uses that ability to serve many pro bono clients in the Latino community. Kevin has volunteered with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota since 2013 and provided full representation or brief service to 23 ILCM clients, including family unity clinic consultations, and full representation for Naturalization and U Visa Adjustment cases. As part of the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), Kevin staffs DACA workshops and pop-up legal clinics and working with seven DACA clients, providing help on family-based petitions through its joint Family Unity Project (see above), and providing full representation on a U Visa case. Kevin is committed to helping local nonprofits provide a high level of service and meet the demand for services through pro bono legal representation. He represents clients with significant hardships and challenges, such as persons who are experiencing homelessness.


Hardeep Sull

Hardeep "Dee" Sull has been working in the Las Vegas, Nevada, and is an ardent advocate, a well-versed mentor, a passionate litigator, and an empathetic community activist. She strives to make sure that at least 20% of her firm caseload is pro bono (although, that percentage is generally higher than 20). She is the "go-to" in the community with referrals coming from the local law school clinic, legal aids, congressional representative offices, and community advocates, all seeking out her expertise and compassion in reviewing possible pro bono cases. She always goes out of her way to speak to a possible referral to, at the very least, give them her advice and opinion. She has handled pro bono cases that range from the simpler affirmative petitions to full on federal litigation. She isn't one to back down or give up. She also volunteers her time on various AILA, ABA, and local immigration committees. She has trained attorneys and non-attorneys alike in immigration issues. Dee has always shown herself as a true friend to her community, and most importantly, to her clients.

New England

Alexandra Peredo Carroll

AILA New England is proud to select Alexandra Peredo Carroll as our Chapter Pro Bono Champion. As the Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Alex works tirelessly to ensure no child has to face removal proceedings without the assistance of an attorney. To that end, in the summer of 2018, Alex traveled to the border to meet with parents who had been separated from their children. She also traveled to New York to train pro bono attorneys to represent children who had been separated from their parents in Texas and sent to facilities in New York. Her passion for teaching and mentoring provides invaluable training to pro bono attorneys in the New England area who take KIND cases and represent children in removal proceedings. Alex has also been asked to share her expertise in representing children in removal proceedings at numerous continuing legal education forums in Massachusetts. AILA New England, and most importantly, the children in our area who have been represented by KIND are very grateful for Alex's selfless work in providing legal representation to children in removal proceedings.

New York City Area

Rebecca Sosa

Rebecca Sosa is a true embodiment of the pro bono spirit. From 2014-2018, she was an active member in the Pro Bono Committee and later took on committee leadership roles. For several years, she was the primary AILA member running the Juvenile Docket before IJ Schoppert at the New York Immigration Court. In addition, she has dedicated her solo practice to poor and disenfranchised clients, in particular youth, through SIJS petitions and asylum applications, as well as victims of domestic violence. She has provided support to private attorneys who handle pro bono cases, both through the Children's Docket and in the broader community. She also often provides work product to assist other attorneys. She regularly updates others on the status of legal developments affecting vulnerable populations, such as children and asylum seekers. She provides critical mentorship in our immigration advocates community. In addition, she has worked with local politicians to organize other community-based legal clinics outside of the Pro Bono Committee.

Andrea Saenz

Andrea Saenz is a significant contributor to AILA NY's pro bono community, particularly in sharing her expertise around removal defense, detainee representation, and related matters. As the Attorney-in-Charge of Brooklyn Defender Services' (BDS) New York Immigrant Unity Project (NYIFUP) project, Andrea manages a team of attorneys who represent hundreds of low-income immigrants every year who are facing removal in detained and non-detained proceedings, all pro bono. Andrea helped grow NYIFUP into a national model and consults with other organizations and cities around the country to expand pro bono representation everywhere. She herself is a skilled removal defense lawyer and federal court litigator who has won complex custody, citizenship, and other rulings. Andrea trains and teaches frequently, including presenting several times last year to the NY AILA chapter on bond and habeas and on national AILA webinars and trainings. She is generous with her time and frequently answers questions and provides sample filings to other AILA attorneys.

Northern California

Erin Elskes

Erin Elskes of McCown and Evans has undertaken pro bono representation for 32 clients for Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) since 2015 and continues as an active volunteer. Erin enjoys working on pro bono cases and tries to take as many as she can. She is currently working on a U AOS for a spouse who recently had his I-929 approved. Andrea Del Pan, BayLegal's Pro Bono Director says, "Erin's expertise in immigration law has increased BayLegal's capacity to provide comprehensive legal services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our clients and their children. She has helped 32 individuals in their applications for immigration relief, including I-929s, I-918/I-918A and EAD applications. Erin has secured lawful permanent residency for ten clients to date, paving the way for greater economic opportunities and the right to live free from fear of family separation and deportation for our valued members of our community."


Kim Le

Kim Le currently serves as AILA-OR liaison for the DMV and was previously the chair of the Chapter's New Member Division. She has devoted countless pro bono hours on a local high-profile case of a Vietnamese man who served in the US Marines and later came to the US as a refugee with most of his family. When he came, there were two of his sisters who were not eligible to join the rest of the family because they were married. It had been 40 years since the siblings had seen each other, but Kim worked diligently to get through the process and reunite the siblings. Kim's commitment to justice is truly phenomenal and she very much deserves recognition for the incredible work she does.

San Diego

Lauren Cusitello

Santa Clara Valley

Veit Family

Kathy Veit, her wife Heather Hadlock, and their daughter Madeline provided pro bono accompaniment support to a client seeking asylum. These three women formed their own accompaniment team to support a lesbian client seeking asylum in the United States. This client is a San Jose resident. This woman is a current CLSEPA (Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto, a Northern California immigration legal services non profit) client and came to this country without resources or support. Kathy, Heather, and Madeline paid her ICE parole bond and provided her supplies for resettlement, including financial and emotional support. They have driven the client to court and maintained constant communication with her, helping her connect with a local church and find work when she got her work permit. Kathy, Heather, and Madeline have gone above and beyond to support and form a special bond with this client and did this on their own accord. They connected with CLSEPA through their work with the Immigration Refugee Action Group of the All Saint's Church in Palo Alto. Their individual and selfless support of this client gives us hope that we can protect and care for our immigrant neighbors during such a dark time in our history.

Evangeline Abriel, Jessica Jenkins, and Shoshana Kushner

These SCV chapter members traveled to and worked in Tijuana, Mexico, December 2-6, 2018, providing immigration one-on-one consults to asylum migrants arriving at the US border from the Northern Triangle Central American countries and other locations around the globe. They compassionately listened to migrants' stories, attended informative asylum law and know your rights presentations, and competently and professionally gave detailed, complete asylum screenings to many individuals and families during the beginning of the migrant exodus from Central America in late 2018. These three chapter members gave generously of their time and hearts, and we wish to recognize them as pro bono champions this year.

Southern California

Stacy Tolchin

Stacy Tolchin has, for many years now, provided dedicated pro bono services to immigrants in Southern California. Most importantly, she provides mentorship and technical assistance to other attorneys working on pro bono matters. She has helped attorneys with oral argument moots, mentored those litigating cases in district court, and answered innumerable questions from attorneys in need of assistance. She has also been instrumental in working with criminal defense attorneys to ensure correct advice on immigration consequences of criminal convictions.

South Florida

Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli & Pratt

In 2017, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for Haitian nationals in July of 2019. TPS was originally granted by the Obama administration after its devastating earthquake in 2010. As this action would endanger the lives of thousands of Haitian nationals and their children, Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli & Pratt worked tirelessly to file suit. In October 2018, based on their hard work, a federal judge blocked the administration from deporting TPS holders with U.S.-born children from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Sudan.


Paul Zoltan

Paul Zoltan rocks pro bono. He not only gives countless hours of his time to pro bono asylum efforts, but he runs a pro bono asylum clinic to help many lawyers from all legal fields rock asylum pro bono as well. He has changed countless lives, both asylum seekers and attorneys through his dedication to pro bono.

Upstate New York

Sarah Rogerson

Last summer, over 300 asylum-seekers were transferred within eight days to a county jail in upstate New York, effectively bringing the southern border to New York's capital. Individuals and organizations across New York State gathered together under the co-direction of Sarah Rogerson of Albany Law School and Camille Mackler of the New York Immigration Coalition, to provide legal orientation, credible fear preparation and remote CFI interview legal accompaniment to these individuals, ultimately achieving over a 95% success rate for credible fear interviews. The success of the project was due in large part to a long-standing, five-year collaboration between Albany Law School, the Albany County Sheriff's Office, and The Legal Project to provide access to lawyers seeking to counsel individuals in the jail. Powered by hundreds of local volunteers and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, within two months, all individuals had met with an attorney and within six months, there were no detainees remaining in the jail. The best practices forged in Albany have been exported to other similar crises in South Carolina and Virginia.


Northwest Immigrant Right's Project - Federal Detention Center Response team

During the peak of the family separation crisis last summer, NWIRP discovered that over 50 separated parents were being held at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in SeaTac, WA. NWIRP quickly put together a response team to provide representation to the detained parents. The NWIRP FDC team coordinated pro bono attorneys and provided them with technical assistance and guidance. The team also provided direct representation and facilitated the reunification of many of the families affected. Members of the FDC team worked around the clock on this issue, sacrificing weekends and evenings with their own families to do everything possible to reunify the separated parents with their children. During this time NWIRP also quickly brought litigation against this harmful family separation policy. While NWIRP is regularly engaged in the provision of pro bono services, this response team truly went above and beyond in a time of crisis and we feel that they are particularly deserving of this award.

Washington DC

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter is a bilingual Staff Attorney at Whitman-Walker Health. She represents patients in immigration, name change, and other related legal matters. She also helps screen, train and mentor volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono representation for immigration cases. Denise has volunteered and interned with CLINIC's Board of Immigration Appeals Pro Bono Project, CAIR Coalition, Human Rights First, Amnesty International of Poland, World Organization for Human Rights USA, and GW's International Human Rights Clinic. Denise Hunter served as a Co-Chair of Citizenship Day, a significant task, coordinating the Chapter's seven Pro Bono Clinic locations throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. In addition to organizing the event, Denise spent considerable time conducting client intakes at various locations throughout the DMV. Denise also serves as an active member of the Chapter's Pro Bono and ZAR Committees. Denise is passionate about her work and has dedicated her entire career to helping the immigration population.


Ayuda provides legal, social, and language services to help vulnerable immigrants access justice and transform their lives. Since 1973, the organization has served more than 100,000 low-income immigrants throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Ayuda's immigration legal team represents immigrants in immigration matters before the Baltimore and Arlington Immigration Courts, local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts, the Arlington Asylum Office, USCIS, and ICE. Ayuda provides educational outreach to communities through intake clinics and information sessions. Additionally, Ayuda has a direct legal services project aimed at remedying the harm caused by notario fraud called Project END. Project END provides advice, counsel, and representation to victims in civil, criminal, and immigration proceedings. Through Project END, Ayuda encourages consumers to submit complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and has created a guide to show individuals how to submit notario fraud complaints in DC, MD, VA, and nationally.


Anita Sorensen

Anita Sorensen has served as co-chair of the Wisconsin Chapter's Pro Bono Committee for several years and for many more years, she has arranged pro bono assignments to Chapter members. The assigned cases generally come from Catholic Charities, a non-profit in Milwaukee. That organization is staffed with attorneys, law students, and paralegals and has a large clientele. Not surprisingly, prospective clients often have to wait a long time to have a meeting at Catholic Charities and possibly have work done on their VAWA and U Visa cases. Finding volunteer attorneys to take on cases is important, and Anita has been persistent in recruiting volunteer attorneys and continuing to follow up with attorneys who have promised to help but have not yet accepted a case. She also has assisted in setting up CLE programs on VAWA and U Visas for volunteer attorneys.

Theodore J. Chadwick

Theodore (Teddy) J. Chadwick has for some years approached pro bono work as a tithing commitment. As a partner in the Grzeca Law Group, he previously made day trips to Green Bay every two weeks to provide pro bono consultations. Now that the firm has a resident immigration attorney in Green Bay, Teddy now spends a day in Madison every two weeks providing free consultations at Centro Hispano and the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC). He heads up the Family Immigration and Deportation Defense unit of the Grzeca firm. He also regularly gives community presentations in Spanish on immigration issues and is a willing resource to other attorneys on removal defense issues.