2021 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions
Congratulations to the 2021 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions! The 2021 Champions demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to providing pro bono assistance through various worthy initiatives. Thank you for promoting justice and advocating for underserved members of the immigrant population!
Rosetta finds every opportunity she can to provide pro bono and low-cost legal services to her community. She has been very active with the Volunteer Lawyers Program and Children's Law Center since 2018. Over the past year, she has volunteered over 80 pro bono hours assisting clients with immigration, landlord tenant, employment, guardianship, and disability matters with the Medical Legal Partnership. Those hours also include taking pro bono child adoption and guardianship cases that are referred by the Children's Law Center. As a Modest Means program attorney, she also provides reduced rate legal services to low-income individuals who would not qualify for pro bono programs. As an AILA member, Rosetta has volunteered for Citizenship Day workshops each year and is currently a member of the Phoenix Arizona Chapter Citizenship Day Committee. She organized the February 2021 Citizenship Day workshop for the Phoenix Arizona Chapter.
Erika has been a longstanding member of the Arizona chapter. She was part of the Sanctuary Movement in the '80s. She then worked for Southern Arizona Legal Aid. Eventually, she went off to start her own low bono/pro bono practice. She has always filled a significant void in our community by offering low bono services when many cannot do so. She has also been present at most of the immigration clinics, naturalization workshops, and countless other events to assist immigrants. She does a huge amount of volunteer work with the University of Arizona Law Clinic. Erika is one of the diamonds in the Arizona chapter and she is beloved by her colleagues in Tucson. Erika is close to retirement, but intends to continue her volunteer work even after retiring.
Over the past two years, Ashley has conducted free monthly legal clinics at both El Vinculo Hispano/Hispanic Liaison and El Centro Hispano in Durham and Carrboro. She was getting ready to start conducting clinics at the Raleigh location for El Centro when COVID shut everything down. However, since COVID, she has continued to work with both organizations by conducting these clinics virtually by Zoom or by phone. The clients reaching out for help are those that are some of the most vulnerable, with little to no resources and mostly living in rural North Carolina. Ashley has dedicated hundreds of hours over the last two years, providing no-charge consultations. She enjoys giving back to the community and considers these clinics to be one of the most rewarding parts of her job. In addition to the legal clinics, Ashley has also taken on three pro bono court cases. She is assisting a client with a parole request and their court case, where the client fled Mexico to access life-saving medical treatment in the U.S. One of her other clients is an asylum seeker who has suffered greatly and has mental health and competency issues. Finally, Ashley is working alongside USCRI to provide pro bono services for a minor in removal proceedings who does not have any support in the U.S.
Vilerka Solange Bilbao
Vilerka Solange Bilbao focuses her law practice on defending immigrants and human rights since becoming licensed to practice in Florida in 2018. During the past year, Vilerka has provided pro bono representation to the Jacksonville, Florida, community. This included the representation of 10 detainees at the Baker County Detention Center, securing the release (without the need for bond) for some, petitions for release on humanitarian grounds and under Fraihat, adjustment of status and/or reopening removal cases. She also filed Complaints with the DHS Office of Civil Rights/Civil Liberties regarding the unsafe conditions of the detainees in the detention centers during Covid-19. She provided representation to two families that were separated at the border (involving four children) and assisted in getting these families reunited. She also participated in many clinics that offered free representation in the Jacksonville area, including Viva La Fiesta, town halls, and Ask-A-Lawyer. This is a sample of the impressive advocacy and pro bono assistance that Vilerka has provided to the local community during the pandemic, all while working to grow her new law practice.
Giselle A. Martinez
Giselle A. Martinez focuses her legal career on providing representation to and closing the gap between immigration clients who do not qualify for “legal aid,” but also do not have enough money to pay a private attorney. To this effect, out of frustration in seeing immigrants alone (unrepresented in court), Giselle joined with two partners to co-found the Orlando Center for Justice, a Florida Not-for-Profit Corporation, to address this void in the local community, allowing access to justice for those clients falling between the system’s cracks. The organization has since grown, providing low/pro bono representation to numerous immigrants in the Orlando community. Giselle is the Chair of the Central Florida Chapter’s Pro Bono Committee, leading several free legal clinics and the Chapter’s Citizenship Day events.
Hannah Cartwright led the way to create the Midwest Immigrant Legal Defense Fund and started a nonprofit, Mariposa Legal, in Indiana, which was greatly needed. Hannah is also the ERO liaison for Indiana.
Laura Lunn is the Detention Program Managing Attorney at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), where she practices removal defense for noncitizens detained in Aurora, Colorado. Her primary focus is providing court-appointed legal representation to individuals determined to have limited competency through the National Qualified Representative Program. Additionally, Laura teaches an Asylum Law & Policy Practicum as an adjunct professor at the Sturm College of Law - University of Denver. Laura's efforts as a pro bono volunteer attorney started with the family detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, in 2015, and continue today for the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association at the Aurora ICE Detention Center. Throughout the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, she has risen to the challenge, doubling her advocacy on behalf of the detained population residing in Aurora and the community at large.
Sister Mary Ellen Burns
This year’s Connecticut AILA Pro Bono Champion is Sister Mary Ellen Burns of Apostle Immigrant Services, a non-profit immigration legal services organization she founded in 2008. There, she provides immigration representation to the low-income immigrant community in New Haven. This work is a continuation of her legacy of legal services, as Sister Mary Ellen worked for 19 years as a legal aid attorney in New York City before transitioning to her current position. Sister Mary Ellen has been a zealous advocate for Connecticut’s DREAMers, volunteering her time to many of the state’s first DACA clinics and continuing to keep DACA as a primary focus of her work. Sister Mary Ellen is also a frequent volunteer at other pro bono clinics, such as AILA’s Citizenship Day, and dedicates a lot of time to education and outreach to the most vulnerable members of her community. The Connecticut Chapter is grateful to have her as a part of their family.
Jessica has provided pro bono Padilla analysis and training services to public defenders in Georgia and across the country since 2013. Each year, she and her firm provide at least 50 pro bono Padilla advisories to assist public defenders to provide accurate immigration consequence analysis and advice to their clients. In 2020, Jessica developed a free 5-month webinar series on Padilla Immigration Consequences, with participation from over 700 attorneys across the U.S. who received pro bono training. This attention to Padilla is so needed and underserved. It's a passion for Jessica to expand this reach and ensure that all public defenders have access to proper training and resources in order to properly represent their non-US citizen clients and protect them from unknown immigration/deportation consequences.
Sur Legal, an organization founded by two Georgia-Alabama members, Shelly Anand and Lynn Pearson, began in November 2020. Since their founding, they have provided support and advocacy to the survivors of the chemical leak in Gainesville, Georgia. On top of that, both Lynn and Shelly have gone out of their way to provide individual attorneys with mentorship (and incredibly in-depth mentorship and advice) on multiple pro bono cases over the last year, including on a UAC asylum case, an asylum appeal, a request for parole, and T visa cases, along with much more.
Hannah is the founder of Mariposa Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating on behalf of detained immigrants in Indiana. At Mariposa Legal, Hannah provides comprehensive and holistic legal representation, community education initiatives, and proactive data-driven responses to challenge immigration enforcement efforts. Hannah has been an active AILA member in the Indiana Chapter, creating a Midwest detention FAQ and stepping into the role of Indiana Chapter’s ICE liaison. Hannah continues to promote the rights of immigrants in detention in Indiana.
Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbor
Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbor (COIN) is a coalition of service providers working together to facilitate and coordinate community efforts to provide legal, psychological, and other services for immigrants in Central Indiana. COIN’s vision is of a professional community responsive to the unique needs of the Central Indiana immigrant population. COIN has led significant efforts on behalf of immigrant communities, including coordinating two teams of volunteer attorneys who traveled to Dilley, Texas, sponsoring several Naturalization Clinic Days, including the AILA annual event, and providing monthly immigration updates to its member base. With five years of experience, COIN continues to build bridges between programs and services to immigrants so they may continue their journey from poverty toward economic self-sufficiency. COIN is led by Executive Director, Julie Sommers Neuman, an AILA member.
Sonia Parras Konrad
Sonia Parras Konrad of the Sonia Parras Law Office in Des Moines, Iowa, has been a tireless advocate for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. As one example, the Sonia Parras Law office took on 25 T Visa pro bono cases when the COVID pandemic hit. Sonia also worked to find other Iowa attorneys to assist in an unexpected need for T Visa advocacy in Iowa during that time. Sonia has been involved in founding multiple non-profit organizations including ASISTA, MUNA, LUNA, and LLI, and has written multiple manuals on gender violence for use by Latina advocates and service providers. Her enthusiasm and drive to provide pro bono assistance and advocacy for those most in need is an ongoing inspiration for the Iowa/Nebraska chapter.
Tim Farmer is with Trey Sucher Law in Iowa. Tim has been instrumental in assisting approximately 50 DACA beneficiaries each year renew their DACA status at no charge, other than the governmental filing fee. Tim learned Spanish while serving a two-year mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after which he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington. Tim then worked in human resources at two large factories, where he collaborated with attorneys on various legal issues, including immigration, which inspired Tim to attend law school. Tim’s breadth of experiences instilled in him a deep respect for cultural diversity, which he displays in his approach to the practice of law and attention to pro bono advocacy.
Amy Maldonado is a solo practitioner in East Lansing, Michigan with a day job representing clients (hospitals, tech companies, physicians, scientists, researchers, MLB clubs/players, etc.) in high-end business immigration matters. In addition to running her practice and a small business, Amy has been a committed and tireless advocate on behalf of detained immigrant families and children since 2015. As a pro bono volunteer with Aldea - The People’s Justice Center, she participated in litigation challenging a range of Trump Administration policies. Amy assisted in filing individual suits on behalf of separated children to challenge the family separation policy, and also has litigated challenges to the policies providing for lengthy detention of children alone in CBP border facilities; the foreclosure of access to a fair asylum process for hundreds of parents and children in family detention in expedited removal; the lack of COVID protections in family detention centers; and the placement of children in the Migrant Protection Protocols program, resulting in the first precedential opinion by a Circuit Court of Appeals, finding jurisdiction in federal district court for challenges by individual children to their custody placement. Amy has also represented families in MPP who were pro se in the immigration court at the Board of Immigration Appeals and in Circuit Courts of Appeal, challenging the due process violations raised by lack of access to counsel in MPP and successfully reunified several children whom CBP refused to release from border detention to their parents present in the United States, instead wrongfully transferring those children to ORR. In addition to her pro bono advocacy, Amy has mentored and co-counseled with attorneys around the country, sharing pleadings and advice with her colleagues, with the goal of crowd-sourcing social justice, and regularly appears as a media commentator regarding the detention of immigrant children. With these high-profile activities, Amy is a passionate voice for immigrants, especially immigrant children cruelly separated from their families.
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) is a cutting-edge non-profit that is transforming the power of pro bono immigration work across Michigan. MIRC exists as a legal resource center for Michigan's immigrant communities and works to build a thriving Michigan where immigrant communities experience equity and belonging. To achieve these goals, MIRC has leveraged the power of the private bar with monumental success, introducing private practitioners to immigration law and connecting immigrants to essential representation. For example, as cooperating counsel in the Hamama v. Adducci litigation, MIRC introduced dozens of new practitioners across the state to pro bono immigration work, fostering essential representation in Hamama cases, but also educating new attorneys on immigration law and preparing them for a lifetime of pro bono immigration work. Additionally, MIRC has developed a first-of-its-kind pro bono partnership with a local civil rights firm, Salvatore, Prescott, Porter and Porter, on immigration issues requiring litigation, especially in the area of workplace discrimination and harassment, and thus significantly raised the quality of affordable representation available for low-income immigrants. MIRC has developed a pro bono panel specifically focused on immigration bond issues, training dozens of private bar lawyers on how to handle an immigration bond hearing and connecting them with immigrants needing to get out of civil detention. MIRC regularly partners with numerous other large law firms on pro bono immigration matters, providing case assessment, training, guidance, and support on placed cases. These partnerships result in hundreds of pro bono hours delivered, and, in a field like immigration, it’s no exaggeration to say, numerous lives saved every year.
Casey Bryant graduated from CUNY Law in 2010 and has represented low-income immigrants since 2011. She founded Advocates for Immigrant Rights (AIR) in 2018 to ensure access to legal representation across the region. For the last couple of years, Casey has worked with the Community Legal Center and MidSouth Immigration Advocates to form the Welcome South coalition. The purpose of the coalition is to offer a more holistic approach in the representation of clients throughout their immigration life cycle. One of the many programs that the coalition is launching will match private attorneys with eligible pro bono cases. This will allow for an increased representation for low-income and particularly vulnerable clients. Casey Bryant has contributed countless pro bono hours in service of people detained in Louisiana while expanding the organization she helms by threefold. She has served as co-chair Pro Bono liaison for the MidSouth chapter and is a trusted friend and colleague.
Paschal Nwokocha & Chukwu Law Offices
During the 2020 pandemic, Paschal Nwokocha represented four full-rep LRIFA cases and continues to accept full-representation cases when requested by local non-profits. Also, he promotes pro bono within his staff at his law firm and allows them to take a significant number of cases. Obi Chukwu has regularly volunteered for the Advocates for Human Rights and other non-profit organizations in the Twin Cities. Nysha Operana also serves as a regular volunteer with Volunteer Lawyer’s Network’s phone advice panel, has several full-rep U-Visa cases, and recently took another U-Visa case after helping obtain the U Cert.
Clare Murphy Shaw
Clare Murphy Shaw runs the Asylum Clinic KC (ACKC), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit established a few years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. The ACKC provides pro bono and low-cost immigration services via referrals from multiple community organizations and partners, and Clare has worked hard to develop the ACKC since its inception. In developing the ACKC, Clare partnered with Legal Aid’s Volunteer Attorney Project (VAP) to assist low-income residents in applying for naturalization and with Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR) to coordinate pro se workshops for unrepresented asylum applicants who are unlikely to find representation, but who need assistance navigating their own cases. She is also growing local pro bono case placement and mentorship capacity to train local attorneys on how to obtain family court orders with the necessary findings to apply for SIJS, and to represent children in immigration court. She currently has cases placed with both Shook, Hardy, and Bacon, as well as Stinson. In addition to all her work at the ACKC, Clare also manages a contract with the Vera Institute of Justice, providing representation of unaccompanied minors living in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)-contracted facility in Topeka, Kansas. This involves providing know your rights presentations to every child brought into the facility (currently over 60, with kids arriving and leaving each week), as well as analysis of possible relief, representation in court, and help with family reunification. This often involves long hours and Clare tends to their needs with compassion and dedication.
Originally from Lima, Peru, Kathia has consistently been involved in educating the immigrant community. She uses social media as her main platform to educate them. She has over 238,000 Facebook and 208,000 YouTube followers and has been invited to be a guest and speaker at numerous shows and events. She has served as a member of the national committee on the unauthorized practice of law for AILA, and works with several immigrant nonprofits such as the Citizenship Project, Dream Big Nevada, and La Casa Del Inmigrante.
Dream Big Nevada
Astrid Silva arrived in Nevada with her family at the age of 5 after immigrating from Mexico just a year prior. After graduating from Nevada State College, she began getting more deeply involved in the politics surrounding the DREAM Act and became the poster child for the legislation in her home state of Nevada. Silva and a small group of dedicated DREAMers and allies formed DREAM Big Vegas, a club that aimed to educate the community about issues facing DREAMers and their families. While in its infancy, the club received national acclaim for its work with DREAMers in Nevada. Silva has also received local and national acclaim for her work. She was named Youth Immigrant of the Year for the American Immigration Council in 2014, was named a rising Civil Rights leader by the Los Angeles Times, and most recently delivered the first Spanish language Democratic response to President Trump’s first speech to Congress in 2017. Silvia is now the executive director of Dream Big Nevada and continues to raise her voice and empower others so they can achieve their goal – keeping families, like hers, together. She hosts webinars, provides DACA scholarships, and makes it comfortable and welcoming for anyone who has questions about any immigration issue to contact her. She has lately assisted in tremendous efforts in getting the immigrant community vaccinated. The Nevada chapter applauds her and her efforts!
Iris Gomez is the director of the Immigrants Protection Project at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), the statewide legal services support center, and her expertise and leadership is invaluable to the New England chapter, never more so than during the past year, pushing back on the barrage of immigration restrictions and, in particular, opposing the Trump Administration’s public charge proposal. A nationally recognized expert on immigration law and the intersection of public benefits and immigrants, Attorney Gomez was an integral member of the national “Protecting Immigrant Families” (PIF) campaign and Mass-PIF, as part of the national coalition, which generated over 266,000 comments in opposition to the Administration’s public charge proposal. Iris led the development of innovative advocacy strategies, the distribution of a series of extensive practice advisories for immigration attorneys, and dozens of trainings on best practices for attorneys. In the second half of 2020 alone, PIF-Mass conducted over 30 trainings on public charge, reaching more than 1,600 individuals, including several panels and roundtables for the AILA NE Chapter and Spring Conference. She was part of two leading studies on the impact of the public charge rule in the Commonwealth: (1) “ The Growing Wave of Federal Immigration Restrictions: What's at Stake for Massachusetts?” prepared by Boston Indicators, the research center of the Boston Foundation, in partnership with the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund (GBIDF), tracking the implications of changes to public Charge, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and other humanitarian protection programs for refugees and asylum seekers; and (2) The University of Massachusetts Gaston Research Institute report, “The Effect of the Proposed Changes in Federal Public Charge Policy on Latino U.S. Citizen Children in Massachusetts”, revealing the disproportionate impact of public charge on Latino families and “mixed” status families in the Commonwealth. Ms. Gomez was integral in the establishment of GBIDF as a pilot program as part of the Delivering on the Dream (DOTD) national funding network, launched by the City of Boston in in conjunction with MLRI and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), to support legal services providers and nonprofit community partners to build the region’s capacity to protect and defend immigrant rights. The energy, brilliance, and zeal that Iris continues to bring to the fight on behalf of immigrants after decades working in this field – from her start as a farm worker advocate, a public defender, a GBLS attorney, to her years as a lecturer at BU and BC law school and service as Trustee of the Hyams Foundation and serving on the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Law Center - is remarkable and appreciated. Attorney Gomez’s tireless leadership in the New England chapter in developing and supporting advocacy and policy interventions that help us better protect the due process of our clients and obtaining the civil rights due to them in the immigration system benefits us all.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) has been on the cutting edge of training nonprofit immigration legal service providers and private attorneys to provide affordable, quality legal representation to immigrants since its founding in 1988. Today, the network includes nearly 400 nonprofit organizations in 49 states that serve hundreds of thousands of low-income immigrants each year. As it has throughout its history, CLINIC continues to react adeptly to rapid changes in the world of immigration law and policy. With a robust response to recent threats to vulnerable populations, CLINIC prepares its members to meet growing demands for legal screening, protection from deportation, adjustments of status, and naturalization as citizens. As the largest charitable legal immigration network in the nation, CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, court skills trainings, as well as advocacy support. CLINIC trains nearly 10,000 people each year on immigration-related topics. Of particular note, in the past year, CLINIC has provided technical support, webinar trainings, and practice advisories to AILA attorneys and others on topics ranging from expedited removal to the Liberian Refugee and Immigrant Fairness Act (LRIF) to declaration drafting. CLINIC has also shared template comments in response to proposed regulations, including the EOIR Asylum Procedures, the Good Cause for a Continuance in Immigration Proceedings, and the "Motions to Reopen and Reconsider; Effect of Departure; Stay of Removal” regulations.
In addition to training and technical support, CLINIC engages in strategic impact litigation and has created innovative remote legal representation and mentorship models to increase pro and low bono legal representation capacity. CLINIC’s impact litigation efforts have resulted in significant decisions protecting immigrants, including: 1) a federal court declaration that Kenneth Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed as the Acting Director of USCIS and, therefore, certain policies he enacted were void; 2) an injunction preventing USCIS from changing its fee waiver policy for low-income immigrants; 3) an order requiring the asylum office to preserve protections for asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors; and 4) a halt to the public charge rule. CLINIC’s innovative remote legal representation and mentorship models include a multi-faceted response to family separation. CLINIC’s Remote Motions to Reopen Project addresses the critical need for competent representation for individuals with final orders of removal by partnering with pro bono attorneys to represent individuals who have removal orders on motions to reopen. Finally, CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Project engages pro bono attorneys in representing detained noncitizens on BIA appeals.
AILA New England recognizes CLINIC for its exemplary work expanding pro and low bono legal representation capacity, particularly for the most vulnerable immigrant communities.
New York City Area
Sophia is a Pro Bono Supervising Attorney with Catholic Charities Community Services. She has been instrumental in AILY NY Pro Bono Committee’s successful community outreach and programming this year. Examples of her contributions include helping organize and moderate our CLE on SIJS and identifying outreach and volunteer opportunities for the chapter with community organizations needing pro bono assistance, amongst others. She is presently helping organize a TPS clinic for Venezuelans in collaboration with Catholic Charities.
The AILA NorCal Chapter nominates Evgenii Sverdlov ("Gene") as their Chapter Pro Bono Champion. Mr. Sverdlov has been an AILA member since 2010, joining just after he was admitted to the California Bar in 2009. Currently, Mr. Sverdlov has his own robust private practice where he represents clients in various forms of immigration cases. In addition to his own work, he spends countless hours doing pro bono work. He has been volunteering with the San Francisco Justice and Diversity Center's Attorney of the Day Program since 2013 and has been a consistent and dedicated volunteer during the pandemic. He regularly signs up for remote consultations and has flagged issues during each appointment and referred the consultees back to JDC for needed services.
For the past several years, Tucker Ellis’s Cleveland office has been an invaluable pro bono partner to Cleveland Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services (ILS). Through a high volume of pro bono work, several of Tucker Ellis’s attorneys have demonstrated steadfast dedication and commitment to the competent representation of the immigrants in the community. Tucker Ellis attorneys have primarily supported Catholic Charities ILS by representing the sponsors of unaccompanied minors residing in Northeast Ohio in custody and guardianship proceedings. In June of last year, Tucker Ellis attorney Heather Bartzi represented the guardian of one of ILS’s unaccompanied minor clients. When the child approached ILS for assistance with his case, he was just weeks away from turning 18. The child’s only relief was SIJS. Ms. Bartzi did not let the short timeline deter her. She went above and beyond to file the case on time and request that it be expedited and resolved before the child’s birthday. Ms. Bartzi even visited the guardian at his home to prepare documents for immediate filing. The ILS attorney who represents the unaccompanied minor described Ms. Bartzi’s actions as “a work of magic,” as she was able to obtain guardianship orders. Because Ms. Bartzi worked so diligently and so quickly, the unaccompanied minor was able to apply for SIJS and his I-360 petition for SIJS was approved!
Though that case was remarkable, it is not unordinary for the volunteer attorneys from Tucker Ellis to go above and beyond. With their support in representing the guardians of SIJS clients, seven SIJS applications were filed in 2020 alone. Additionally, Tucker Ellis has handled complicated guardianship cases for young refugees resettled without their parents and for refugees deemed mentally incompetent due to their traumas. Tucker Ellis pro bono attorneys are expedient, accommodating, and treat their immigrant clients with the same dignity and professionalism they would extend any of their many powerful, distinguished clients. It has been plain to see that the attorneys truly enjoy working to improve the lives of immigrants in the community.
AILA Oregon is proud to select Kevin Stout for the Chapter Pro Bono Champion award. Kevin, through his law office of Stout Law LLC, provides immigration legal services to an underserved area in Medford, Oregon, and Southern Oregon. After an immigration law office with several regional offices abruptly closed, Kevin worked tirelessly on a pro bono basis to ensure that individuals in the Medford area were provided with their files and notified of urgent deadlines.
Pars Equality Center
Pars Equality Center provides free or low-cost legal immigration services to qualified individuals. They support community members by offering immigration education, representation, and advocacy. They provide in-house and mobile workshops, seminars, and roundtable discussions on immigrant rights. Pars Equality Center also challenged the discriminatory travel ban by filing lawsuits at the national level.
Daniel T. Huang has exclusively practiced U.S. immigration law since his admission to the State Bar of California in 1996. His practice area includes employment and investment based immigration, work visas, family based immigration (including adoption and humanitarian paroles), naturalization, and waivers. Daniel has been working on multiple pro bono cases at the border and collaborated with multiple non-profit immigrant rights organizations. He has also been inspiring to more recent attorneys to take on pro bono work. Additionally, Daniel supervises several pro bono immigration cases and provides his mentorship on those pro bono cases.
Seth Finberg was nominated for his enthusiasm and dedication at AILA South Florida-sponsored clinics. He is newer to AILA, but has plugged into its opportunities to learn through pro bono. In Seth’s words, “I enjoy doing meaningful work and making a tangible difference in my clients' lives. Doing Pro Bono work is even more fulfilling because I am giving hope along with quality legal advice to people who otherwise might go without either. AILA has connected me with a vibrant community that I am thrilled to be a part of. I am glad to make a positive impact and look forward to continuing my volunteer work.”
Office of New Americans (Virtual Pro Bono Programs)
The Miami Dade Office of New Americans is a countywide initiative to raise awareness about the importance of citizenship. The mission is to empower immigrants eligible for naturalization to become more civically and economically engaged in communities by facilitating access to the resources they need to attain citizenship and to prosper. Pro bono services provide legal assistance to the immigrant community and offers resources to the often-invisible members of our community – those who still live below the poverty line, refugees, Asian and Black immigrants, those with limited English proficiency, and the elderly. The Office of New Americans helps the community through public education, legal assistance for naturalization, and volunteerism. Their Virtual Clinic model is a national and local partnership between different legal service providers, non-profit organizations, community stakeholders and foundations, who have come together in an effort to provide free legal assistance and increase awareness around naturalization, DACA, and TPS. Leveraging technology, they are able to maximize volunteers time, increase access for immigrant communities, and scale up.
Lindsay Gray is the CEO of VECINA and based in Austin, Texas. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Immigration Law for Washington University in St. Louis. She regularly teaches and speaks about immigration and asylum law, including at the AILA National Annual Asylum Conference, AILA Chicago, AILA North Carolina, Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and others.
Upstate New York
In 2020, Michael was the recipient of the Peter J. Murrett III Pro Bono Award, the highest award of AILA’s Upstate NY Chapter. Michael has several outstanding pro bono accomplishments, including a pro bono defensive asylum case in immigration court for a survivor of the Burundian genocide, pro bono citizenship cases for children of refugee parents who obtained U.S. citizenship, help with studying for the citizenship exam, representation at the interview for adult citizenship cases, and extensive pro bono work with RISSE, Albany, NY’s immigrant and refugee center.
Dan Williamson is a partner with Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen & Loewy LLP, working out of the firm’s Washington, DC, office. While maintaining a busy work schedule, Dan has found time to donate many pro bono hours to Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC) and their naturalization program. APALRC holds monthly naturalization workshops and over a two-year period, Dan volunteered at nearly every workshop—putting in 4 or 5 hours of pro bono time on Saturdays. APALRC found that they could rely on Dan to give excellent service to clients who are typically very low-income immigrants with little formal education and limited English. Dan’s patience and kindness, combined with skill and meticulous attention to detail, is just what the clients needed to get over the final hurdles towards full citizenship. Dan was also willing to take on the complex cases, including those that involve an intersection between criminal and immigration law.
Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center
The Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center (ChesMRC) empowers people from different cultures to become successful and engaged members of our community. Since its inception in 2012, ChesMRC has provided services to more than 4,000 non-English speakers in Talbot and surrounding counties, involving over 6,500 separate requests for information and referral. No other organization is addressing this need. It focuses on five goals and objectives, including legal residency and citizenship, with the focus on improving and expanding immigration and citizenship direct services through immigration consultations, referrals, case management, citizenship classes, and employer advice. ChesMRC also focuses on youth development, its resource center, language and cultural competency, and community collaboration.
Leta Sanchez, IRIS
IRIS's mission is twofold: to connect immigrants with existing resources in the community, and to provide immediate assistance to those experiencing a temporary period of crisis. The direct support provided by IRIS includes rent subsidies, emergency housing, groceries, beds, clothing, and financial assistance with medical and utility bills. IRIS endeavors to strengthen their communities by creating stability for those in crisis. They do this by collaborating with other community organizations and engaging their communities to create a sustainable support network. They serve immigrant families in their local communities who are in a temporary state of crisis. They provide critical bridge assistance to support these families on their path to stability. Compelled by global forces of migration, these families are struggling to overcome the confines of extreme poverty, discrimination, and the debilitating impact of trauma.
Arlene Joe is an attorney who works in guardianship and estate planning. On top of her own cases, she is the go-to pro bono attorney for Pierce County cases for youth clients at the Tacoma office of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. She always does a phenomenal job and clients are in the best of hands. She offers assistance, even when there is a tight deadline with a child who will be aging out of eligibility. Arlene is well-known in the local juvenile court and admired among local attorneys. In one case, Arlene worked with three young sisters who had just entered as UCs because their family had been murdered. The girls came to live with their aunt and Arlene learned that the aunt had her own troubles and needed to flee an abusive relationship. Arlene organized large donations of beds, sofas, TVs, computers, iPads, toys, clothes, and more for the family. The family was so grateful after everything they'd been through. Arlene also obtained SIJS orders for the three girls. Outside of her pro bono representation of immigrant youth, in her free time, Arlene attends protests at the Northwest Detention Center to bring attention to issues affecting detainees. Arlene is winding down her practice and will be retiring shortly. She has certainly left her mark.