Professional Resources

2020 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions

7/20/20 AILA Doc. No. 20071740.



George Pappas

George Pappas has been providing pro bono immigration consultations and access to justice to the immigrant community of Henderson County via the True Ridge Organization since 2017. In 2019 alone, he provided 62 pro bono consultations to clients in need. He is the epitome of commitment, honesty, and passion. He shows love and care for every person who walks in looking for assistance. Even in these challenging times with COVID-19, he has made consultations available by Facetime, Zoom, or Skype for anyone who may need assistance.


AILA Detained Services Committee

The AILA Detained Services Committee was created with the objective of connecting detained immigrants who are without representation to volunteer attorneys, so that immigrants may be represented in their custody proceedings, and providing support to the volunteer attorneys throughout the custody proceeding process. The Committee does this by providing trainings throughout the Chicagoland area in the immigration bond process to include attorneys of all different practices, maintaining a training booklet and mentorship sheet for all volunteer attorneys, and staffing an email account to answer questions in real time for the volunteer attorneys. The Committee works in conjunction with CVLS to maintain the case tracking database, as well as to access volunteer attorneys and training opportunities. Detained immigrants are referred to the committee after an initial screening done by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). Representation in custody proceedings is incredibly important as, per an American Immigration Counsel study, immigrants who were represented in custody proceedings were four times as likely to obtain a bond and release than immigrants who were not represented. Additionally, the importance of representation in custody proceedings continues to the final outcome of immigrants’ removal proceedings, as per a Syracuse TRAC study from 2016, 2 out 3 cases for people who were released on bond were ultimately successful in their quest for relief from removal. Finally, the Committee assists NIJC in intakes at the Jerome Combs detention facility in Kankakee, IL. In 2019, the Committee connected 44 detained immigrants with attorneys, and thus far for 2020, the Committee has connected 19 detained immigrants with volunteer attorneys.


Pascal Schunk

Over a period of many years, Pascal Schunk has volunteered his time and expertise at the Colorado Lawyers Committee's Legal Nights. In addition, he has also volunteered at the legal clinics provided by the Denver Public Library. He volunteers at citizenship drives. He handles cases pro bono. He does all this with no expectation of recognition; just a smile and a friendly attitude. He is usually the first one to volunteer whenever there is a need, as most recently shown by his volunteering for the new virtual Legal Nights. The Colorado Chapter would like to recognize him for his tireless dedication to our community and unequivocal commitment to pro bono cases.


Benjamin Haldeman

Ben is an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow in his third year at New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA). He brought the immigration unit at NHLAA to life when he arrived and made it a priority to ensure that NHLAA is representing as many people as they possibly can, no matter how complicated the situation, or how unlikely the success. Ben has always understood that everyone deserves the best representation possible and when someone is being represented by Ben, they have the best representation possible. Ben demonstrates how to represent detained clients and how to think creatively about all possible options for someone, not just the ones that seemed the most obvious or most likely to result in success. In addition to his talent as a lawyer, Ben has a huge heart. A lot of Ben’s current clients are detained at a facility that is a two-hour drive away. Ben goes to visit these clients often, many times because there is work to do, but also many times just to check on them, visit with them, and give them some company, knowing that they don’t get to see many friendly faces most days. Ben and his colleague are currently representing a detained client and he began writing this client letters of support so that they would have something to read to pick them up when they’re feeling down. There are lawyers, and then there are good lawyers, and then there are great lawyers, and then there is Ben, and Ben rises above all of the others.


Sarah Pitney

Sarah Pitney is an Associate Attorney at Benach Collopy LLP. They have represented clients in various proceedings on both the detained and non-detained dockets before the Immigration Courts. In addition to their experience in deportation defense, Sarah has also represented clients in family-based petitions, adjustment of status, waivers, asylum, and naturalization cases. Sarah has set a very high bar when it comes to Pro Bono work. For 2019 alone, Sarah has extensive pro bono and volunteer work that included representing and winning three defensive transgender cases and two affirmative transgender cases while waiting on a decision in one more interviewed in November. Sarah also has 25-30 other transgender pro bono asylum cases pending, and they worked with the American Immigration Council to mentor big law attorneys who took detained trans cases pro bono. Sarah led and fundraised a group trip to the border during the week of Thanksgiving 2019, working with Al Otro Lado and a couple of local LGBTQ+ orgs in Tijuana and volunteered at pro bono naturalization clinic during the 2019 AILA National Conference in Orlando. Sarah volunteered with the AILA National – Diversity and Inclusion and Distance Learning committees and the AILA DC conference planning committee and wrote blog post on nonbinary inclusion for AILA:

Legal Aid Justice Center

Legal Aid Justice Center of Falls Church, VA, partners with communities and clients to achieve justice by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. They have raised the bar through impact litigation, direct representation, community service and organizing, and serving as a resource for colleagues by staying on top of, advocating for, and updating members on issues related to the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, they mentor students and starting a first-ever direct representation clinic at George Mason University School of Law. Legal Aid Justice Center is an exemplar of everything that is possible for a non-profit organization.


Michigan State University College of Law Immigration Clinic

The AILA Michigan Chapter has selected the Michigan State University College of Law Immigration Law Clinic for the Pro Bono Championship Award. The extraordinary program of the Immigration Law Clinic engages students and faculty in the delivery of high-quality pro bono legal services, outreach, training, mentorship, and community service. Now completing its tenth year, in addition to its own pro bono work, the program supports students, law graduates and other attorneys to do pro bono work on behalf of lesser-served and vulnerable members of the immigrant population. The MSU Immigration Law Clinic opened its doors in August 2010. The free direct representation of individual clients and families is at the center of the clinic experience. The clinic deliberately seeks cases that the private bar cannot or will not take due to clients’ inability to pay, and takes cases that other legal aid organizations will not take due to funding restrictions or because they are complex matters that fall outside the parameters that other organizations have set for their representation. In its first ten years, students and faculty have provided free legal representation to clients from 84 different countries. Even in the slow-moving and bureaucratic world of immigration adjudication, since its opening ten years ago, students have appeared in 227 USCIS interviews, 373 immigration court hearings, and 236 probate/family court hearings, seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status findings in custody and guardianship proceedings. Students have also engaged in appellate work before the BIA and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. To date, 288 clinic clients have obtained lawful permanent resident status through clinic representation.


Jeremy Jong

Jeremy went above and beyond when the raids in Mississippi happened and basically moved to Mississippi for a few months so he could provide assistance to the affected families. During. COVID-19, he organized attorneys to assist with the release of individuals detained in the LA and MS facilities that had serious outbreaks, providing templates and guidance to those who could assist. He has worked with other attorneys to train them on how to represent immigrants in detention. Jeremy also provided invaluable recon on the detention facilities throughout the MidSouth region, which he distilled into a detailed google document that is available to all MidSouth members.


Sarah Molina

Sarah Molina is a highly committed and tireless advocate who manages her own small immigration law firm in St. Louis. Despite the demands of being a small business owner and busy attorney, in 2019 alone she dedicated many hours to pro bono work and to encouraging other attorneys to get involved. She made several trips to the U.S.-Mexico border to work with asylum seekers trapped in Mexico, she co-organized local pro se asylum workshops, she helped organize the Missouri-Kansas Chapter’s annual conference, she provided direct pro bono legal representation to needy clients, and she generously trained and supervised a 3rd year law student in representing an indigent asylum-seeker in removal proceedings pro bono. From December 2018 through August 2019, Sarah made five separate trips to Tijuana to work with Al Otro Lado and coordinated the Chapter’s pro bono trip there in April 2019. During those trips, Sarah conducted asylum workshops and helped prepare individuals for their credible fear interviews. Once MPP was instituted, her work at the border included conducting asylum workshops for pro se asylum applicants stuck in Mexico. Even when she was not physically at the border, Sarah lent her skills to asylum seekers in Mexico by providing remote translations and offering guidance to new attorneys at the border. She also worked hard to encourage other Chapter members to volunteer their time at the border. Sarah truly exemplifies what it means to lawyer “for the public good.”

Genevra Alberti

Genevra Alberti works for The Clinic at Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, a nonprofit where she represents indigent individuals in their removal proceedings at the Kansas City Immigration Court. She is a passionate advocate for her clients, and also dedicates much of her time to helping others do the same. Genevra served as the Missouri-Kansas Chapter Vice Chair, Chapter EOIR Co-Liaison, and Chapter Pro Bono Liaison. She consistently provides updates to the Chapter on changes in law, as well as changes at the Kansas City immigration court, and she actively advocated for the Kansas City Court to institute more protections for attorneys, clients, and court staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has dedicated much time in the last year to giving presentations on various immigration issues to raise awareness in the community, has recently been giving virtual Know Your Rights presentations in the detention centers, and she recently worked with community leaders and organizations to oppose the opening of a local ORR shelter by a company with a record of mistreating the children it houses. In addition, she serves on the steering committee of another local nonprofit, the Deportation Defense Legal Network (DDLN), through which she mentors private attorneys who represent detained noncitizens in their immigration bond hearings pro bono. She also frequently mentors private attorneys outside of the DDLN, and takes a lead role in organizing the Clinic’s annual three-day “Not Your Typical Trial Advocacy Conference,” which trains attorneys to represent individuals in immigration court.

New England

Kerry Doyle

AILA New England is proud to nominate Kerry E. Doyle, Esq. as our Chapter Pro Bono Champion. Kerry is a partner with the Boston firm of Graves & Doyle. She passionately works to ensure access to justice to the most vulnerable immigrant populations and serves as a role model for our chapter. Kerry provides invaluable mentoring and training to attorneys doing pro bono work in the New England area and serves as mentor for various local non-profits, including the PAIR Project, where she assists in the representation of asylum-seekers and detained immigrants. Kerry is a regular speaker at numerous continuing legal education forums in Massachusetts, particularly on issues of complex litigation. Kerry channels her notable expertise and generously dedicates her time to challenge unjust immigration laws, particularly in the Federal Courts. Kerry’s pro bono contributions have resulted in monumental wins, including a successful challenge of mandatory detention before the First Circuit and a temporary nation-wide halt to the current administration’s Muslim-ban which had caused two university professors who are Iranian to be unjustly detained at Boston Logan International Airport (Logan Airport). Kerry continues to provide pro bono legal services and fiercely litigate against the unlawful detention and deportation of Iranian nationals at Logan Airport, including filing a habeas corpus petition for an Iranian student unjustly detained upon entry. She helped her client with submitting a complaint to CBP’s CRCL unit and worked closely with other local counsel taking on similar cases. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerry is among the leaders in the chapter filing emergency petitions for habeas corpus, demanding the release of detained immigrants. AILA New England is very grateful for Kerry’s selfless work in ensuring access to justice to the most vulnerable immigrant populations and assisting other counsel looking to do the same.

New Jersey

Lauren Herman

Founded in November 2014, Make the Road New Jersey builds the power of immigrant, working-class, and Latinx communities to achieve dignity and respect through community organizing, legal and support services, policy innovation, and transformative education. Every week, hundreds of immigrant families - young people and adults - come together to fight for dignity and respect in our communities. MRNJ provides extensive legal services to the immigrant community in New Jersey, including representation with EOIR, USCIS, and ICE; the legal services team has worked to help hundreds of individuals renew their DACA status. Recently, MRNJ helped secure several key victories in New Jersey, including a landmark investment in legal defense for detained immigrants facing deportation, expanded access to driver licenses regardless of immigration status, and legislation that expands access to state financial aid for undocumented students.

Northern California

Lakin & Wille LLP

Amalia Wille and Judah Lakin opened their law office, Lakin & Wille LLP, in the fall of 2019. Even while building their new practice, they have taken on numerous challenging pro bono matters. First, they succeeded on an individual pro bono habeas petition, which led to the reuniting of a client with his family. Next, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were part of the team that filed a group habeas on behalf of 13 plaintiffs demanding release from ICE detention due to age and medical factors making them particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections. Subsequently, they joined a coalition of legal organizations as class counsel in Zepeda Rivas, et. al v. Jennings, et al. The Zepeda Rivas class action team recently won an emergency order to review for release more than 400 people detained by ICE at the Yuba County Jail and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in California, and has already started to result in the release of individuals from both Yuba and Mesa Verde. In addition, they are part of the coalition of legal organizations representing the plaintiffs in Aleman Gonzalez v. Sessions, a successful class action that granted individuals detained under INA § 241(a)(6) for 180 days the right to a bond hearing in the Ninth Circuit. Amalia and Judah should be commended for their pro bono efforts to protect due process for all.


Amy Bittner

Amy has provided legal assistance to women asylum seekers who have been detained at the South Texas Family Residential Facility through the Dilley Pro Bono Project. She has been leading and organizing trips to Dilley for the past 4-5 years. She is not compensated for her time and always makes the long trip to Texas from Ohio. In Dilley, Texas, she was amongst 25 total volunteers, stemming from a variety of different backgrounds and Spanish-speaking capabilities. Amy spent Sunday evening being trained on asylum law and particularly what it looks like at the “credible fear” stage of proceedings. The next day, everyone was off to help stop women from being deported. As a volunteer, Amy dealt with sudden and swift changes in asylum law in the middle of the week, managing the presence of young, sick children during client preparations, dealing with shortages of interpreters, and the intense time pressures of knowing client asylum interviews would take place sometime within 24 hours. All the while, Amy was resilient in her efforts and kept everyone focused on the task at hand.

Jessica Ramos

Jessica has brought together lawyers, law students, paralegals, and interpreters from all over the state of Ohio to volunteer for one week with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, providing legal assistance to women asylum seekers who have been detained at the South Texas Family Residential Facility. She was not compensated for her time and always makes the long trip to Texas from Ohio. As a volunteer, Jessica met with women seeking asylum and prepared them for their credible fear interviews. These preparations are crucial because the women she works with have endured tremendous hardships; they are traumatized by their experiences, as well as their journeys. Cultural differences, such as the normalcy of domestic violence in many cultures, also interfere with their ability to articulate their asylum claim in a way that is advantageous for them under U.S. asylum law. As a result, she spent long hours learning every detail of these women’s stories to ensure that they were as prepared as possible for their interviews. She is dedicated, resilient, and puts all her effort into any task at hand.

South Florida

Yuna Scott

Attorney Scott has been an AILA Member since 2011 and has a deep commitment to pro bono. While in law school, she interned at the Immigration Unit for Broward Legal Aid Services and over the years, has regularly participated in citizenship drives. In 2019, she volunteered at the Southern Border. At the start of the year, when President Trump announced his ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, Attorney Scott saw a need and decided to give her time and expertise. At the time, no organization was offering pro bono services in the area. Attorney Scott started a GoFundMe and raised more than $2,000 to cover travel and expenses to El Paso, Texas. With the help of other likeminded attorneys in Texas, she was able to organize informational sessions for Cubans stuck in Juarez, Mexico. During her week in Juarez, she met with over 40 Cubans, educated them on the Remain in Mexico Policy, drafted asylum applications, and even represented a few individuals at their court hearings. Attorney Scott reflected that the experience was both “amazing and disheartening.” Through her work, she was able to provide invaluable assistance to the most vulnerable.

Immigration Unit of Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s Parkland Shooting U Visa Project

Following the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, the Project served more than 50 families of Parkland students, totaling more than 200 victims and family members. The Project assisted victims and families to apply for U visas, and to obtain Deferred Action and employment authorization on an expedited basis. Legal Aid had no funding to serve these families at the time, but took on the challenge, and successfully obtained deferred action and work authorization for more than 100 victims of the MSD shooting and their family members.

Southern California

Jenna Gilbert

Jenna Gilbert is the Managing Attorney of the Los Angeles office of Human Rights First. Jenna oversees the pro bono legal representation of indigent asylum seekers. Recently, she was involved in a successful federal suit requesting the release of four immigrants who were detained in the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, and at risk of contracting COVID-19. In 2019, she contributed to the drafting, research, and editing of the Prisons and Punishment report on immigration detention in California. She provides support to volunteer lawyers from law firms in the Los Angeles area who represent asylum seekers at all levels of the system. She also provides information and legal services to asylum seekers in DHS detention and helps to coordinate their legal representation. Prior to her role as Managing Attorney, Jenna was a Staff Attorney in both the New York and Los Angeles offices of Human Rights First. She is a frequent speaker on immigration-related topics affecting asylum seekers.

Joyce L. Noche

Joyce L. Noche is a Legal Director for Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles and oversees their adult and family representation programs, where her work has centered on those facing removal proceedings in both detained and non-detained immigration courts. Over the last year, Joyce has represented adults and families in immigration court who have been directly affected by this Administration’s attacks on immigrant communities and families, including the zero tolerance policy, heightened immigration enforcement in Los Angeles and Orange County, and those affected by the Migration Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”) policies that have been implemented by this Administration to circumvent asylum laws and protections to those seeking refuge. She represents individuals and families on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border, and those detained in California detention centers. She is currently working on representing those detained amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recently obtained release for a medically-vulnerable client who was detained in Imperial. Joyce has a history of service to the immigrant community, founding one of the first holistic legal services programs for domestic violence victims in New York City at the Legal Aid Society of New York and as a member of the LA-based legal team assisting the Los Angeles Dream Team in its advocacy efforts for administrative relief (DACA).


Taylor Levy

Taylor Levy defies the mold of an immigration attorney, but it is that precise reason that she is deserving of honor for her work. She has advocated and supported immigrants in the El Paso-Juarez area for over a decade, working for Annunciation House, Las Americas, and now in her own untethered capacity. While she has advocated for some of the most vulnerable in the border region, she has done so in an on-the-ground, resistance fighter type of way. The vast majority of her work is pro bono. Throughout the horrors of family separation on the border to the ongoing nightmare of the Remain in Mexico/Migrant Protection Protocol program, she doesn’t let anyone turn away from what is happening on the ground. She has fearlessly been a voice across media, calling attention and challenging official accounts. By moving back and forth from Juarez to El Paso, she is physically present at the ports of entry, in migrant shelters, talking to those on the street, putting herself on the line to bring attention to the plight of the often forgotten. She does what so many are unable or unwilling to do – be there, in the center of the crisis. For advocates, she is a critical source of up-to-the minute information. She shares her information and experiences widely and freely, producing practice support on social media and through advisories. Weaving together the tattered threads of information, people, and resources, she gives those representing immigrants on the border the tools to advise them most effectively. By rejecting the traditional model of law practice, Taylor has provided a critical link between those so desperately in need and those who would seek to advocate for them.

Upstate New York

Irene Rekhviashvili

Irene is Senior Staff Attorney at Journey's End Refugee Services in Buffalo, in charge of immigration matters for the VIVE shelter. VIVE was founded in 1984 by members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY. It was born out of the "Sanctuary Movement" of that day. These founding mothers saw a need to assist the influx of individuals from Central and South America who wanted to seek asylum in the United States or Canada due to the inability to return to their homeland. Women Religious communities housed and helped asylum seekers at their convents until one of the convents in Lackawanna, NY was converted into a housing facility called Vive La Casa. Vive La Casa eventually moved into a former school building at 50 Wyoming Avenue, Buffalo, NY where it still operates today. It was acquired by Journey's End Refugee Services, a leading provider of immigration legal representation to low-income refugees, asylees, and other immigrants. Journey's End is one of our Chapter's largest member sources.


Wendy Hernandez

Jonathan Shaklee


Melissa Soberalski

Melissa Soberalski began her pro bono service while still a law student. She has continued this service during her legal career and membership in the Wisconsin AILA Chapter. Most recently, Melissa has led the Chapter’s Citizenship Clinics in Milwaukee. For more than the last five years, she has planned, arranged the logistics, recruited volunteers, and participated as an attorney in this important event. Regardless of whether Melissa had others helping her or she was the sole organizer, her energy and commitment has been unwavering for the Citizenship Clinic events. Because of Melissa’s hard work, the Wisconsin Chapter has run successful Citizenship Clinics. For her fine pro bono service, the Wisconsin AILA Chapter names Melissa Soberalski its 2020 Pro Bono Champion.

Catholic Charities of Milwaukee

Barbara Graham is the Director of Legal Services for Immigrant Programs at Catholic Charities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a long-time AILA member. Since 2007, Barb and her small staff have partnered with the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association to establish and develop a pro bono program under which AILA attorneys handle VAWA, U, and in limited situations, other types of cases that have been screened and referred by Catholic Charities. Indeed, Barb recommended that the Chapter seek a grant to launch and fund the then new pro bono program. She served on the AILA pro bono committee that wrote the successful grant proposal to the State Bar of Wisconsin when this program began. In addition to this ongoing outreach through the Wisconsin AILA Chapter’s pro bono program, Barb and the Catholic Charities legal staff also regularly encourage attorneys at law firms and private companies to engage in pro bono. Barb and the legal staff at Catholic Charities develop and present training programs for such attorneys. Barb and the legal staff also answer questions and mentor individual pro bono attorneys on their pro bono cases. The Catholic Charities team help these volunteer attorneys build their confidence and succeed so that they will volunteer again. Barb Graham and the Catholic Charities legal staff make these efforts to encourage pro bono while handling full caseloads. Catholic Charities receives many more requests for free legal services than it can possibly handle. Through these efforts to encourage pro bono in the private bar, far more individuals are being helped. The Wisconsin AILA Chapter names as a 2020 Pro Bono Champion the Catholic Charities legal team led by Barb Graham.