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AILA Doc. No. 22061306 | Dated June 16, 2022
Congratulations to the 2022 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions! The 2022 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!
This year, Derrick provided valuable guidance on SIJS for a pro bono case, which through a series of complicated events, became his pro bono case. He has handled the case with the utmost professionalism and grace, put in countless hours, and the unaccompanied minor he has assisted is incredibly thankful for his generosity and humanitarian nature.
In the wake of the 2021 Afghan refugee crisis, the McEntee Law Group provided support to Afghan refugees and their families by preparing and filing over 30 pro bono applications for humanitarian parole for Afghan nationals. Fiona McEntee, the managing partner of McEntee Law Group, is an active AILA Chicago Chapter member and the AILA National Chair of the Media & Advocacy Committee.
From 2020 through 2022, Gina Reynolds, has co-chaired the AILA Chicago pro bono legal services volunteer program. She has championed efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to staff the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services pro bono immigration clinic virtually with volunteer immigration attorneys from the AILA Chicago Chapter. This transition from in-person consultations at the clinic to coordinating virtual consultations ensured continuity of access to legal counsel for the underserved immigrant communities of the greater Chicagoland area.
Tracy Harper is the founder and managing attorney for the Legal Program at integration: Networking, Outreach, Wealth-Building (iNOW), a project of Trailhead Institute. iNOW Legal Services is a grassroots non-profit legal services program that offers affordable immigration legal services tailored to the needs of refugees and asylees. Tracy has been providing low-cost immigration legal services to refugees and asylees in the Denver Metro Area since 2016. Before working at iNOW Legal Services, she built and managed the Legal Program at the Colorado African Organization in Denver. Tracy has been an AILA Colorado pro bono superstar this year. She is Co-Chair of the Access to Services Committee, and through that role she has formulated AILA Colorado’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan, bringing Colorado’s nonprofit agencies and refugee organizations together to address the needs of Afghans arriving to our state. She has spent countless hours organizing clinics to provide pro bono services to Afghans seeking asylum and other humanitarian relief. In her Access to Services role, she established the AILA Colorado “Pro Bono Spotlight” to highlight the pro bono work of her Colorado colleagues and encourage others to engage in more pro bono activities. Tracy received her law degree from Roger Williams University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado - Boulder. Tracy spends most of her free time with her husband, two young children, dog, cat, and four chickens. In rare moments to herself, Tracy loves to read.
Natalie Petrucci is a Colorado Staff Attorney for A Better Balance, where she supports the protection and implementation of the nation’s first paid family and medical leave program passed through a state ballot initiative. Natalie graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2017. During law school, she served as the Co-Editor in Chief of the Chicanx-Latinx Law Review, as a UC Human Rights Fellow while interning at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona and spent a semester supporting a labor and human rights non-profit in Nicaragua. Following law school, Natalie defended immigrant children and families applying for asylum and other forms of humanitarian immigration relief at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) and at a boutique law firm in Colorado. She also worked with various immigration legal projects at the U.S.-Mexico border and has served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Panama. Natalie continues her pro bono service with AILA Colorado, co-chairing the Access to Services Committee. She has been actively working with independent bar associations and nonprofit organizations to promote opportunities to assist asylum seekers through trainings and pro bono legal clinics. Natalie has led AILA Colorado’s response to the crisis in Ukraine, lending her expertise to non-immigration pro bono attorneys as they work to address the legal needs of Ukrainian arrivals. In her Access to Services role, Natalie established the AILA Colorado “Pro Bono Spotlight” to highlight the pro-bono work of her Colorado colleagues and encourage others to engage in more pro bono activities.
This year’s AILA Connecticut Pro Bono Champion is Attorney Alicia R. Kinsman. Alicia has dedicated her legal career to serving those in our immigrant community who are most vulnerable. She began her immigration career at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI), a non-profit committed to assisting refugees and immigrants to resolve legal, economic, and linguistic barriers so that they may achieve self-sufficiency in the United States. Alicia continues her work there today as a Senior Staff Attorney, and has also manages her own solo practice, where she accepts cases on a low bono and pro bono basis. Alicia has developed expertise in human trafficking, and, in 2013, she won the FBI Field Director’s Award for her work serving foreign-born victims of trafficking. Since 2017, Alicia has also coordinated a 40-hour BIA Accreditation Training, through her work at CIRI, for individuals interested in becoming BIA Accredited Representatives. She is an experienced, intelligent, and compassionate advocate, who is always generous with her time and wisdom, and the AILA Connecticut chapter is lucky to have her.
Stephanie Blumenau says yes regularly to pro bono work. She currently has four active cases with MIRC (Michigan Immigrant Rights Center) alone. Stephanie takes about one case per year. She is very generous with her time and her legal talents.
Immigrant Justice Lab (IJL) at the University of Michigan does a lot of work to support individuals in removal proceedings and those seeking humanitarian relief. Their two main projects right now include tailored legal research for unaccompanied children that MIRC represents - briefs and reports, country conditions, and related materials--and the newly created Guides to Defending Yourself in Immigration Court. You can see these fantastic guides here: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/dcc-project/immigrant-justice-lab/. The IJL is a collaboration of the University of Michigan, spearheaded by Professor Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, and assisted by a cadre of staff and students from the law school, history department, and even, the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design.
The Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association recognizes the law firm of Stinson LLP as its 2022 Pro Bono Champion for its exceptional contributions to immigrant rights and pro bono legal representation. In the past two years, a Stinson team of administrative law attorneys led by Dennis Lane and Harvey Reiter has worked with the local non-profit agency, The Advocates for Human Rights, on multiple initiatives. Their efforts include: numerous regulatory comments on asylum and T visas; leading a request to extend the comment period for T visa regulations; preparing an amicus brief to fight the Trump administration’s efforts to gut asylum protections; working to advance migrant rights in comments to the public charge bar; drafting template language for volunteers to use in applications under the Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act; and providing pro bono representation in litigation addressing T-visa fee waiver denials.
The Stinson team contributed nearly 650 hours to these efforts just in FY21, and they continue to work to protect the rights of immigrants through commentary on a Minnesota regulation around solitary confinement and leadership in the Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance’s immigration section. Even more, volunteer attorneys at Stinson separately contributed more than 700 hours in FY21 representing clients in immigration proceedings. Stinson has 25 active matters, covering affirmative asylum, T-visas, removal proceedings, and appeals in which they provide zealous and nimble representation.
Recently, two Stinson teams representing clients in removal proceedings pivoted to pursue alternative relief beyond the scope of their initial commitment. Stinson attorneys exceed expectations in representing clients and protecting immigrant rights on an individual and national level. The staff of The Advocates for Human Rights is honored to work with these dedicated, hard-working, and caring volunteers. The AILA Minnesota/Dakotas chapter feels fortunate to have a law firm that is so committed to immigrant rights.
Genevra Alberti has been chosen as an AILA Missouri/Kansas Chapter Pro Bono Champion for her tireless work on Afghan humanitarian parole cases. She handled some 50+ pro bono cases with multiple family members in each case, and dedicated hundreds of hours to ensuring those facing a humanitarian crisis received the help they needed. After special permission from the board of her nonprofit employer, The Clinic at Sharma-Crawford, Genevra pivoted to meet the needs of the community quickly and passionately. The chapter feels lucky to have her as a leader. She is a testament to the amazing work immigration lawyers do under the most difficult of situations.
The AILA Missouri/Kansas Chapter selects the St. Louis Pro Se Asylum Clinic project and IFLCA (The St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America), who is the project’s principal organizer, as well as St. Francis Legal Services (CLAM) and the MICA Project who support the Pro Se Asylum Clinic with their tireless legal expertise, as a Chapter Pro Bono Champion. IFCLA, St. Francis and MICA organize and host the Pro Se Asylum Clinics quarterly. The clinics are just one part of IFCLA’s accompaniment program that walks with immigrants who are in removal proceedings and provides them support and encouragement as they navigate the complicated and frequently terrifying immigration removal process. More than three years ago, IFCLA recognized the difficulty in finding representation for newly arrived asylum seekers in St. Louis, mostly from Central America and Mexico, who cannot pay private attorneys. Coordinating with St. Francis and MICA, IFCLA organized the St. Louis Pro Se Asylum Clinic program in August 2019 and continued virtually during COVID before resuming in person clinics in June 2021.
In collaboration with MICA and St. Francis, and through the assistance of volunteer attorneys (who provide limited scope representation) and interpreters, these three champion organizations of pro bono legal service assist newly arrived asylum seekers to complete their I-589s and ensure that they are timely filed with the KC Immigration Court, thereby protecting their procedural rights. Over 150 immigrants (both applicants and their derivatives) have benefited from these clinics since August 2019.
Sylvia Esparza is the owner of Sylvia Esparza and Associates, which primarily practices removal defense work. Sylvia is originally from Las Vegas, NV. She has been a member of the State Bar of Nevada since 2003 and is also admitted to practice in the US District Court of Nevada, US Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Ninth Circuit, and in Mexico. She is actively involved in the Nevada Chapter, holding positions in the past as Vice Chair, continues to hold positions as ICE and EOIR Liaison, and has dedicated countless hours in numerous chapter projects and community workshops providing free consultations and presentations for the immigrant community, nonprofit organizations, and in various schools. Her devotion to advocating for immigrants and continued involvement in the chapter is shown by her exemplary efforts, knowledge, and contributions.
Jasmine Coca is the Director of Immigration Services at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. Jasmine is originally from Los Angeles, CA. She is a 2001 graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas-Boyd School of Law. Catholic Charities was Jasmine's first job after law school. She has done an excellent job administering the immigration program with a small support staff of two. Jasmine has dedicated her entire career using her immigration expertise and experience to serve the Las Vegas community for 20 years.
Julio is an active, well-respected, and valued member of AILA New England. He tirelessly champions the rights of indigent immigrants, particularly unaccompanied children. Julio currently serves as an EOIR liaison. In this role, Julio has collaborated closely with a wide range of attorneys, including those from KIND and other non-profit legal services providers to successfully get the immigration court to schedule hearings so that numerous clients with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status whose priority dates are current could become lawful permanent residents. The impact of these efforts has been profound for so many individuals and families.
Julio’s dedication to ensure access to critical legal services is further demonstrated by his engagement with KIND, the PAIR Project, Immigration Equality, and Jewish Vocational Services. This year, Julio is even running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the PAIR Project. Julio is committed to providing access to justice for all and has made pro bono work an integral part of his practice. AILA New England is tremendously grateful to Julio for his generosity and advocacy.
During the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August 2021, a group of highly dedicated attorneys came together to provide emergency pro bono assistance to Afghans trying to find safety in the US. The Afghan Task Force worked quickly to connect Afghans and their families with pro bono attorneys who assisted with humanitarian parole and other applications. The Task Force ensured that every volunteer attorney had an experienced mentor. The Task Force also organized and led Know Your Rights sessions to educate the community about legal options for Afghans. AILA New England recognizes the AILA New England Afghan Task Force for its tremendous efforts responding to this humanitarian crisis and providing exemplary pro bono legal representation to this particularly vulnerable community.
Lauren Major is the Managing Attorney of the Detention Project at American Friends Service Committee in Newark, New Jersey. Over the last several years, she has led the Detention Project through a massive expansion, while providing incredible leadership and making huge strides in her own cases. For example, she represented the respondent in the precedential decision, Matter of B-Z-R-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 563 (A.G. 2022). This matter, which the Attorney General certified to himself, set the groundbreaking precedent that immigration adjudicators may consider a respondent’s mental health in determining whether an individual who has “been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of the United States.” The AILA-NJ Chapter graciously thanks Lauren for her service.
This “ad-hoc” group of 20 pro bono AILA New Jersey Chapter members was formed in the summer of 2021, shortly after the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban. Led by Michele Alcalde, Jason Camilo, and Carolina Curbelo, these attorneys generously donated their time and expertise assisting Afghan evacuees at the U.S. military base in Fort-Dix-McGuire. The AILA-NJ Chapter graciously thanks these attorneys for their service: Michele Alcalde, Jason Scott Camilo, Carolina T. Curbelo, Cristina Carreno, Marisol Conde-Hernández, Eileen King English, Justin English, Kerry Hartington, Anthony G. Filomeno, Yolanda Garcia Balicki, Susan A. Glover, Anjelica Mantikas, Colleen M. McCafferty, Sabrina F. Mirza, Michelle Movahed, Michael Noriega, Ana R. Reis, Raymond S. Santiago, Milena A. Wilson, and Susan G. Roy
An Afghan immigrant herself, Spojmie Nasiri has emerged as a leader in responding to the needs of Afghan immigrants during the Afghan evacuation crisis. Through her practice at the Law Office of Spojmie Nasiri, Spojmie utilizes her immigration expertise, language skills, and life experience to help countless clients escape dangerous conditions and reunite with their loved ones. Spojmie represents clients through applications for humanitarian parole, asylum, SIV, family-based petitions, and more. She has also been generous with her time, mentoring attorneys across the country who are newer to Afghan migration through training webinars, listserv responses, and social media.
Sima has led the way in the Afghan crisis, both in the Bay Area and nationally. Sima manages the Afghan Support Project at the Pars Equality Center and is committed to serving the Afghan community. She has personally provided pro bono immigration legal services to the Afghan community for the last 10 years. In addition to her own pro bono representation, she has been leading outreach efforts to secure pro bono attorneys to represent the Afghan community in asylum applications, humanitarian parole, and other applications. Her tireless work and dedication to ensuring members of the community get legal services is extremely admirable.
AILA Oregon is proud to select the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) for the Pro Bono Champion award. This past year, the IRCO team went above and beyond in coordinating with other legal workers, both from the nonprofit and private sector, to create two pro bono clinics assisting Afghan community members with humanitarian parole applications. The IRCO team delicately balanced the urgency of organizing these clinics while responding to the need of community members with a culturally competent, trauma-informed approach. The IRCO team dedicated countless hours in facilitating meetings, preparing for and holding community outreach events, and matching registered participants with a trained volunteer attorney.
AILA Oregon is proud to select Mark Bowers for the Pro Bono Champion award. Mark is a staff attorney at Oregon Law Center. Mark was part of the team that worked towards the passage of SB 572, the Vulnerable Youth Guardianship law, creating a pathway to SIJS eligibility for vulnerable Oregon youth aged 18-21. Over the past year, Mark has created and led a collaborative project to ensure the successful implementation of Oregon’s Vulnerable Youth Guardianship law. Mark has provided training to over 50 attorneys, developed templates and samples pleadings, helped to screen and place young people with free representation, and worked with the Oregon Judicial Department to ensure that the judges, clerks, and court staff are adequately trained to adjudicate these cases. Through Mark’s leadership and hard work, vulnerable youth in Oregon are well positioned to have access to representation and success in their cases.
Mark has also dedicated his career to nonprofit work serving immigrant communities. He started out in North Carolina where he worked at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and then in Oregon where he first worked at Immigration Counseling Services (ICS) before moving to his current position at the Oregon Law Center (OLC). Mark is an active participant in Oregon Ready, a statewide coalition working to advance immigrant rights.
Craig is extremely generous with his time and resources to all clients. He takes many immigration pro bono cases, even extremely time-consuming appeals to District Court and the Third Circuit. This past year, he has worked on an ongoing pro bono Third Circuit appeal challenging the classification of a PA retail theft conviction as an aggravated felony. He also has donated his time to Afghan clients this past year by filing humanitarian parole applications, helping Afghan SIV applicants, and seeking outside resources for them. He has also taken on many pro bono Special Immigrant Juvenile cases.
While not an immigration law firm, the Duane Morris Law Firm, under the leadership of Valentine Brown and Katharyn Christian McGee, perform incredible pro bono work. Each year Duane Morris and HIAS PA organize Citizenship Day--they have been doing this for more than 10 years. When the Afghan crisis hit, Duane Morris's attorneys both in Philadelphia and nationwide, almost all of whom are non-immigration attorneys, accepted about 300 cases of humanitarian parole. Most recently, attorneys are exploring federal court action related to the denial of Humanitarian Parole for one at-risk family. Duane Morris is also taking a lead in providing affirmative asylum representation to Afghans and others. Duane Morris energizes other non-immigration attorneys to provide pro bono representation. Working with colleagues in the financial field, they are the lead law firm in hosting a Philadelphia "Financial Institutions Pro Bono Day" Clinic in April where counsel to area financial institutions will be partnering with Duane Morris to screen Afghan cases sent to them by area non-profit agencies. The firm has not only mobilized to respond to the Afghan crisis, but they have also handled other cases of vulnerable migrants, including VAWA, U, and SIJ cases. Both Val and Kat, along with a pro bono paralegal at the firm, provide training and support to any attorneys in the firm who wish to participate.
Proyecto Libertadores Siglo XXI, which translates to Project Liberators of the 21st-century, is a human rights group started by six Florida International University (FIU) College of Law professors. The project offered free legal assistance with navigating the TPS process. A main goal of the project was combatting misinformation surrounding TPS in the Venezuelan community.
Maggie Arias, from Arias and Pereira PLLC, has been an active, dedicated, and passionate attorney in the South Florida immigrant community for many years. Maggie has demonstrated her dedication to her profession and care for public service by volunteering for various community workshops, including ones with focuses on TPS and naturalization, throughout her career. Most recently, during the summer of 2021, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) urgently contacted Maggie for her “crimmigration” expertise on an urgent case regarding an immigrant youth who was detained by ICE with a complex criminal history. Maggie immediately expressed her commitment to the case and from early on she strongly believed in the case. With her extraordinary litigation skills, Maggie successfully represented the youth in both his immigration and criminal defense (post-conviction) matters. Throughout the process, Maggie supported a young AI Justice attorney who was also handling the case and offered invaluable guidance, mentorship, and resources. Maggie zealously advocated for release from custody of the youth and never gave up on the case despite facing various obstacles along the way. As a trusted and well-respected member of the AILA South Florida chapter, immediate past president of AILA South Florida, and as someone who values pro bono work and is actively engaged in providing access to justice to lesser-served members of the immigrant population in our community, Maggie Arias is a perfect fit for this award.
Emma started her legal career at Volunteers Legal Project as an intern in 2007. She joined VLP full-time as a law graduate in Fall 2010. Ever since, she has focused her practice on immigrant survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault. Emma has performed services beyond her employment job description. She has taken a strong role in the region’s immigration, human trafficking, and domestic violence communities. She is a frequent speaker at local and national training on the intersection of trafficking and immigration status. This includes immigration options available to trafficking and domestic violence victims. Emma also mentors volunteers and new attorneys who wish to stand for victims and are new to immigration. She is a nationally recognized and generous expert on victim and survivor immigration cases. Emma is always available to chapter members directly. She is a consistent listserv participant, generous with her knowledge. She has mentored many young attorneys starting their practices. While dispensing guidance, she upholds strong ethical benchmarks. AILA Upstate New York is proud to have her in their chapter.
Chelan Crutcher and Kripa Upadhyay took on the tedious and daunting task as custodians for Beacon Law in Washington State. They spent hundreds of hours collecting and organizing over 250 files, hundreds of pieces of loose mail and documents. They spent countless hours tracking down clients, ensuring they get reunited with their files, handling requests from attorneys and disgruntled clients in Washington and other states unable to locate their files, coordinating efforts with custodians in other states and taking the heat from angry clients who lost thousands of dollars without getting anything in return. Their volunteer efforts are ongoing as many files are still lost or unaccounted for.
Brianna Auffray is an AILA Washington member and currently serves as the Legal and Policy Manager at CAIR-WA. She has worked tirelessly over the last two years to create a legal immigration representation program at CAIR-WA and stepped up as a national and local leader to take immediate action in the Afghan crisis. She trained over 1,500 non-immigration and immigration lawyers nationwide, including locally in WA, and in addition to her regular duties, dedicated countless hours to creating a novel legal clinic that pairs non-immigration lawyers with immigration lawyers to work on cases for at-risk Afghan nationals. This visionary legal clinic took an incredible amount of time and effort.
Honorary mention goes to all AILA Washington immigration attorneys who provide pro bono or low bono services to our immigrant community and offer their precious time and expertise on their own initiative outside the context of accredited non-profit organizations.
Parastoo Golesorkhi Zahedi is a licensed attorney in the state of Virginia, with an office located in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. She has been a solo practitioner with the Law Offices of Zahedi PLLC since 1993. Parastoo has served in many volunteer positions over the years for AILA National and the AILA DC Chapter. She currently serves as the AILA DC Chapter Liaison Chair for the Washington USCIS office and is an Elected Director for the AILA Board of Governors. In addition, since last year, she has worked tirelessly for the AILA Afghan Response Task Force, serving as Co-Chair. She has helped with the effort to assist Afghans evacuated to the U.S., as well as those still in Afghanistan. She has also helped develop training materials for Afghan asylum for the HIAS/ABA project.
Drawing on its Jewish values and history, HIAS provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world and advocates for their fundamental rights so they can rebuild their lives. HIAS has been extensively involved with assisting Afghans who have been evacuated to the U.S. Along with serving as a Refugee Resettlement Agency and assisting Afghans with benefits, they have coordinated efforts and developed programs to help Afghans with legal assistance. Partnering with the ABA, they developed a Pro Se Afghan Asylum Toolkit along with an Afghan Asylum Toolkit for Pro Bono Attorneys. Through this partnership, they have also developed other Afghan Asylum training materials.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 22061306.
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