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AILA Doc. No. 23062004 | Dated June 20, 2023
Congratulations to the 2023 AILA Chapter Pro Bono Champions! The 2023 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!
Jeff began full time work with Afghan evacuees when the evacuation occurred and all their work since October 2021 has been volunteer (without compensation) at the Wilberforce Center, a non -profit, serving over 200 Afghan evacuees. The Wilberforce Center has been sustainable due to the donations and assistance of private individuals and other North Carolina State attorneys, who have assisted in various ways. The Wilberforce Center has been privileged now to begin the representation of clients who have escaped Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan. The additional Afghan clients are non-OAR clients, some of whom are in the country. With the recent award of the federal grant, the Wilberforce Center will enter into a partnership with the ABA and lead an effort to provide pro se clinics in the triad area, training additional attorneys in Greensboro to assist. They are in their second year of a pro bono partnership with Duke University, focusing on the Afghan clients.
As newly arrived immigrants started being bussed from Texas and other states to Illinois, the Resurrection Project (TRP) coordinated rapid response from community-based organizations that included providing support services and legal support for this population. Designing and implementing a coordinated legal response and model is essential to achieving client empowerment and building community trust through coordination of volunteers and interpreters; organization of donations; ensuring family reunification; and providing information on immigration, workers’ rights, and healthcare issues. In addition, TRP serves as the administrator for state funding for asylum and other immigration legal needs for newly arrived immigrants. Acknowledging that this is a special population with immediate needs, TRP mobilized quickly to survey existing legal partners funded through ILA2J to determine 1) legal expertise in asylum, 2) capacity to assist newly arrived immigrants and, crucially, 3) organizational linguistic and cultural competency to serve this population. Since December 2022, TRP convenes partners weekly to discuss referral capacity, case updates, policy guidance, training needs, and more. As needed, TRP organizes additional training and resources based on partners’ feedback.
Rev. Craig Mousin dedicated his career to expanding access to justice to immigrants and refugees. He is the current University Ombudsperson at DePaul University in Chicago. As a professor of immigration and asylum law at DePaul College of Law and co-founder of its Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic, Rev. Mousin inspired the immigration law careers of countless advocates. Prior to joining DePaul, he founded and directed the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center, a provider of legal assistance to immigrants and refugees that became the National Immigrant Justice Center. He also directed legal services for Travelers & Immigrants Aid and co-founded and served as President of the Board for the Immigration Project of downstate Illinois. He continues to serve as a member of the Leadership Councils of the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Marjorie Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture, as well as the former President and member of the Board of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.
AILA Colorado nominates Brandon Roché for the Pro Bono Champion Award. Over the past year and several months, Brandon has stepped up as an AILA-CO volunteer to lead rapid response efforts when various emergencies have occurred that impact the local immigrant community, as well as new arrivals to our state. Last year, Brandon got involved with the Access to Services (ATS) Committee to volunteer his time in response to the Marshall Fire, a tragic natural disaster that left many without homes and access to important immigration-related documents. He took it upon himself to figure out what needs existed and whether he could fill any gaps in services to directly assist any non-citizens impacted by the tragic fire. While the need for intensive on-the-ground pro bono work did not materialize as anticipated, Brandon helped ATS build capacity and stood out as a leader within AILA Colorado who could readily lead projects when urgent needs arise. In December 2022, when AILA Colorado members learned that several hundred immigrants were arriving to the Denver area from El Paso, TX, several chapter members, in partnership with community, faith-based, city, and nonprofit leaders, began to strategize about what steps to take to best assess the needs of this population and lend our support. The ATS Co-Chairs asked Brandon if he would be willing to lead the re-launch of a Rapid Response team and take the reins. Despite traveling with his family over the holidays, he graciously agreed, and immediately began putting together a plan and organizing meetings for interested volunteers in partnership with other AILA Colorado members and community partners. Since January 2023, he has organized and personally staffed the majority of the Know Your Rights presentations being provided at various libraries and other community locations to support the need for accurate legal information in the community. Brandon worked closely with a former winner of this award, Emily Smith of Catholic Charities Denver, and several key staff at a local non-profit to ensure bilingual AILA attorneys were able to attend these sessions and that the content was relevant and accurate based on the shifting needs of the populations receiving these presentations. Brandon provided critical information to non-profit and city partners who were rapidly organizing themselves to best serve the legal immigration needs of the new arrivals and address ongoing requests for Know Your Rights materials among the community at large. Without Brandon's expertise leading legal volunteer projects at the US-Mexico border, as well as his can-do attitude, ATS would have been unable to deliver such expert pro bono services and address the emerging needs for legal knowledge and information in the local community. We are grateful to Brandon for his dedicated work, flexibility, and collaboration with local service providers.
AILA Connecticut is honored to present its 2023 Pro Bono Champion award to Meghann LaFountain, an outstanding attorney, colleague, and mentor. For those lucky enough to know her, what stands out most about Meghann is her generosity. As an attorney, she is so generous with her practice, consistently taking pro bono referrals from local nonprofits, and dedicating a great deal of her practice to low bono clients. She is always one of the first to sign up for volunteer events, such as our annual CT AILA Citizenship Day. As a colleague and mentor, Meghann is always generous with her time and wisdom, helping her colleagues work through difficult case questions, presenting at trainings, panel discussions, and other presentations, and serving on the AILA ExComm for eight years. Understandably, Meghann’s colleagues think highly of her, admiring her commitment to low bono and pro bono work, and appreciating her work as a leader and mentor in our community.
The Michigan Chapter of AILA submits the posthumous nomination of the late Attorney Patricia J. Sullivan for the 2023 AILA National Pro Bono Champion Award. At the time of Patty’s passing on October 25, 2022, Patty had been an AILA member for over 25 years. She had a true heart for helping those in need in her community. For 15 years, she was a devoted attorney volunteer for the Legal Aid Clinic at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in downtown Detroit, where she assisted countless families with their legal needs, not only with general legal issues but particularly those seeking immigration assistance from the Southwest Detroit Hispanic Community and many other neighboring Detroit communities. Those who required assistance with immigration issues were especially fortunate to have the assistance of someone with Patty’s level of expertise in the immigration field. Patty not only volunteered countless hours at the clinic herself, but she also recruited many other Michigan AILA Attorneys to join the clinic’s staff of volunteers once she realized that the majority of the clients required immigration counsel. Toward the end of her career, Patty also received the Charles R. Rutherford Jr. Award, which is given in honor of the late Attorney Charles R. Rutherford Jr. to the Incorporated Society of Irish American Lawyers (ISIAL) member who is committed to community service. Through this award, Patty was recognized for her devoted service to the immigrant community through her service at the Legal Aid Clinic, as well as for countless additional hours spent at local charities committed to fighting hunger and poverty in the Detroit community, such as Focus: Hope and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. Patty is missed tremendously by her AILA Colleagues, and in honor of her memory, the chapter can think of no one more deserving of this award.
With a culturally sensitive approach and multilingual staff, ACCESS draws great numbers of new immigrants and refugees who have a large presence in the Southeast Michigan region. These families come to ACCESS seeking case managers who can understand their culture, native language, and unique challenges. In 2016, ACCESS launched the Building Blocks for New Americans (BBNA) Fund. BBNA supported more than 60 New American families in establishing their lives in the U.S. and providing them with their basic needs, after seeing how much these families struggled to survive with their meager resettlement support from the government. As they began to become more stable, ACCESS continued working with them to go to the next level of self-sufficiency through home and car ownership, job training and placement, empowering women to enter the workforce, offering private ESL instruction, and providing intensive case management that was tailored to each family’s specific needs. ACCESS continues to be a vital resource for the underserved populations that are most in need in the region, including refugees such as the Afghan families that arrived in the area in the last year.
Scott is an active volunteer in nearly all the nonprofit organizations in the Minnesota Dakotas chapter. He volunteers with the:
Pro bono work is important to Scott because it provides access to the full extent of the law for those who cannot afford it and likewise empowers them with confidence and determination that they are fulfilling their goals and objectives. The satisfaction he receives from pro bono work is observing the gratitude and joy from clients. Pro bono work is an opportunity to give with no expectation in return.
Leslie Tabb is the managing attorney for the Afghan Legal Services Project at the Asylum Clinic KC (ACKC). Leslie and her team are incredibly supportive of the attorneys to whom they give pro bono work as part of this project. Not only are they available for questions weekly, but they are engaged in ongoing training. Leslie is constantly working with the clients and attorneys alike to learn how to best represent and support the Afghan population in our community. Pro bono work can be overwhelming, but Leslie has made taking a pro bono case simple, straightforward, and honestly a pleasure.
Last year, Martinez Immigration Law, in collaboration with Asylum Clinic KC, began assisting Della Lamb in providing pro bono legal services to Afghan families evacuated during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Zach Bealer, who worked for Martinez Immigration Law, attended weekly meetings beginning in Spring 2022 and helped shape the project that would become the Missouri Afghan Legal Services Project. From June 2022 until his unexpected death in December 2022, Zach conducted weekly pro bono consultations with Afghan families, completing dozens of intake interviews. He attended weekend legal services clinics and provided assistance in completing I-360s, applications for Chief of Mission approval, asylum applications, etc.—all free of charge. Zach embodied the best of our profession: he was passionate about serving immigrants, performed his work with utmost diligence, and truly cared about people. Indeed, being of service to others was a primary motivator for Zach in becoming an attorney. Pro bono work was one way he achieved that goal in his short time with us.
Angel Graf is the directing attorney for the Immigrant Center for Women and Children. In addition to her nonprofit activities as director of ICWC, Angel is an active member of AILA and participates in many of the local naturalization workshops, asylum clinics, and legal education classes in conjunction with other community partners.
Elizabeth E. Estrada is an AILA private practitioner and former member of the Executive Committee, holding numerous leadership positions such as Chair and Treasurer and leading various other Liaison Committees. In addition to the countless hours she dedicates to the work of AILA on a grassroots level, she finds time to participate in many of the community workshops for naturalization, asylum, TPS, DACA, legal education, and has worked cooperatively with many of our pro immigrant partners to create these events.
The Mabel Center for Immigrant Justice is known for its pro bono representation of families with difficult and complex asylum cases. Since the Boston Immigration Court began running the Dedicated Docket, a specialized docket designed to expedite the processing of asylum cases for families who enter along the Southern Border, the Mabel Center has worked tirelessly to provide pro bono legal representation to this particularly vulnerable population through its skillful legal representation and vital pro se assistance. AILA New England is tremendously grateful to the Mabel Center for providing exemplary pro bono legal representation to those with complex cases in immigration court.
AILA New England is pleased to recognize the work of Fragomen, Boston offices, for their pro bono efforts. While Fragomen is known for specializing in business immigration, their attorneys also provide important pro bono legal assistance by representing unaccompanied children through KIND, arguing bond cases for detained asylum seekers through the PAIR Project, and generously hosting trainings and clinics. Fragomen’s contributions to numerous TPS Clinics over the last year, both by hosting clinics and having attorneys volunteer in the community, has allowed hundreds of TPS applicants to get free legal assistance. AILA New England thanks Fragomen for their generosity and dedication to pro bono work.
Nicole Zanardi and Katie Fleming are the founders and coordinators of the Sacramento Attorney of the Day (“AOD”) program, which is modeled after the long-standing San Francisco AOD program. The Sacramento program is entirely volunteer-based, and it was initiated in the fall of 2019 when the immigration court opened in Sacramento. The program aims to provide limited-scope, day-of assistance to pro se respondents in their master calendar hearings, as well as self-help resources and referral lists. The Sacramento AOD program also boasts a non-attorney volunteer network to assist the attorneys with interpretation for the dockets. Throughout the life of the program, volunteer attorneys have provided invaluable information and assistance to pro se respondents, including robust application assistance, preventing several in absentia removal orders, as well as advocating for reopened proceedings when respondents missed a hearing.
The Sacramento area has few pro bono removal defense providers and a high volume of indigent respondents. The Sacramento area is also home to many diverse immigrant communities with various languages represented. As such, the Sacramento AOD program has been working to develop virtual monthly orientation sessions to work in conjunction with the AOD program with the goal of providing more comprehensive information to a greater number of pro se respondents.
Nicole and Katie, in addition to coordinating the program, volunteer for a docket every month. The AOD program has led to numerous victories, including the dismissal of proceedings for a developmentally disabled respondent, advocating and securing continuances for respondents who were late to court, and helping children on the juvenile docket file asylum applications with CIS and receive administrative closure or dismissal of their removal proceedings.
The Sacramento AOD program is also currently recruiting additional attorney volunteers to participate, as well as non-attorney volunteers who are fluent in Russian, Dari, and/or Spanish. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
AILA Oregon is proud to select Alex Blodget for the Pro Bono Champion award. Alex Blodget is the founder of Blodget Immigration Law, working out of Happy Valley, Oregon, with a focus in family-based petitions and serving victims of crimes, trafficking, and domestic violence. Prior to opening her private practice, Alex worked for nearly a decade at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. Alex has volunteered at several clinics, including Citizenship Day and the Ukrainian Consult Clinics. She enjoys serving immigrants experiencing barriers that can make accessing legal services difficult, such as lack of housing and mental health challenges. She is currently representing several refugees and houseless immigrants, including a U.S. veteran, on a pro bono basis.
AILA Oregon is proud to select Elizabeth Raynes for the Pro Bono Champion award. Elizabeth Raynes is the founder and managing partner at LeBrun Raynes Law LLC in Tigard, Oregon. Her immigration practice covers family law, employment, and removal defense. Elizabeth is passionate about immigration advocacy and generous in both volunteering at clinics and offering pro bono representation for vulnerable clients. She volunteered this year at Citizenship Day and at an Afghan TPS Clinic. Elizabeth also recently provided pro bono representation for several cases. She submitted a U Visa application for a vulnerable client, successfully won a non-LPR cancellation of removal case for a detained client at the Tacoma Immigration Court, and secured asylum based on religious grounds for a mother and her two derivative children.
Lilah Thompson is an attorney at Nationalities Service Center, but her work extends far beyond client representation. Lilah's leadership with respect to providing legal services to the "Abbott" busloads of people who arrived in Philadelphia is undeniable. Since November 2022, about 900 individuals were bussed from Texas to Philadelphia, often traveling 3 days straight and arriving in a state of exhaustion. Although the effort to welcome the bussed migrants was truly a collaborative effort, Lilah helped develop hand-outs for the migrants, coordinated with other non-profits and the chapter to ensure recent arrivals had legal information they could use when they arrived in Philadelphia, coordinated with others to make sure there were interpreters on hand, and has since organized legal orientation programs for the migrants who remained in Philadelphia. Lilah often had to meet the buses, or ensure they were met, at 6 AM at 30th Street, often on only a few days' notice. Several buses arrived in the middle of Thanksgiving and during the Christmas holidays. Lilah engaged nonprofit attorneys, AILA attorneys, interpreters, and other support personnel in this effort. Additionally, as one of the liaisons to Philadelphia EOIR, Lilah always updates the chapter, brings issues to the attention of EOIR, and is especially sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Through her leadership as Executive Director, Amy Eusebio has taken the Office of Immigrant Affairs to a new level to make Philadelphia an immigrant-friendly city, including organizing shelter and services for those who were bussed to Philadelphia from Texas. Under her stewardship, OIA has set a tone of welcome and support for immigrants and refugees, from recent arrivals to those who have lived in our community for many years. In regard to the “Abbott busses,” Ms. Eusebio mobilized many non-profit organizations and encouraged collaboration across disciplines, including healthcare workers, interpreters, food service providers, and legal service providers. A transitional housing site was provided for the Texas arrivals who were able to orient themselves and get prepared either for the next leg of their journey, or for settling in Philadelphia. Ms. Eusebio continually responds with generosity to support the immigrant community. She is a convener and collaborator and knows how to bring groups together for positive projects. In March, several non-profits collaborated with the AILA Pro Bono Committee to host a pro bono TPS clinic for Afghans. Ms. Eusebio, with very little notice, worked to provide interpreters for all the clients who needed them. She is a person that swings into action and gets many things done at once.
AILA San Diego is pleased to honor Elizabeth Lopez with the Pro Bono Champion award. From the moment Elizabeth founded the Southern California Immigration Project, an organization dedicated to delivering legal services to survivors of human rights violations by providing pro bono legal services to immigrants, she has created a huge impact in the community. She is one of the few attorneys in San Diego who regularly takes cases from the Imperial Court for pro bono representation. Other law firms refer Imperial cases to her, and she takes them for pro bono representation. In addition, she is always willing to answer questions and share her experiences with her peers. Attorneys from other organizations report that they can email her with questions and Elizabeth gladly provides thoughtful, helpful responses. The San Diego chapter thanks Elizabeth for all that she does for the San Diego community!
Alyssa works for Catholic Community Services of Utah, Migration and Refugee Resettlement. During the past year, she has worked on the Afghan parolee project. Together with the International Rescue Committee, she and her team worked to resettle over 1,000 Afghan parolees. She had over 100 asylum cases that needed to be filed for more than 200 individuals and their families. Alyssa led the effort to make sure that parolees who needed to file for asylum were well represented in Utah by developing briefs and mentoring pro bono attorneys who agreed to take on asylum clients. She also took on many of the cases on her own.
During the past year, Alyssa and her team have been called to respond to the needs of Ukrainian parolees who needed help to file for work permits and to understand their legal options. There has been a recent spike in asylum seekers arriving in Utah who have few family and friends and many have ended up homeless. Alyssa and her team at CCS are working with community partners to try to provide social service support and legal assistance to them. Alyssa credits the other AILA attorneys, legal staff, and law students who have all worked together to deliver critical services to indigent clients who have benefited from their pro bono services.
Nicholle has volunteered with several different groups over the last year. She was part of the committee that planned and hosted AILA’s Citizenship Day in Salt Lake City. Together with that team and volunteers, roughly 50 applicants were able to receive assistance in filing their N-400 applications. Nicholle volunteers with AILA’s Military Assistance Program and is currently assisting two military spouses with Parole in Place and Adjustment of Status applications. She also regularly volunteers with the University of Utah’s Pro Bono Initiative, providing free legal advice and consultations to community members.
Bradley Jenkins is Senior Litigation Counsel at Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. His job is to train lawyers, but he goes above and beyond by taking calls after hours to mentor lawyers within the immigration bar. He has been involved in impact litigation that has changed immigration policies. He also volunteers at the Bienvenidos Initiative by giving free consultations to low-income immigrants.
Founded in July 2016, AsylumWorks was built to help solve a longstanding problem: asylum seekers arrive in the U.S. with many needs but few resources of their own. AsylumWorks provides holistic services and support to help asylum seekers regain confidence and control over their lives so they can fully participate in the asylum process. AsylumWorks focuses on providing job training, community resources, and legal referrals to their immigrant clients. Its focus is humanitarian issues.
Janet has worked tirelessly this past year coordinating with several immigrant advocacy groups to get the Afghan pro bono project off the ground, which has been crucial to providing access to justice to many Afghan immigrants in Washington state. She has helped organize this project, as well as screened applicants eligible for this program. She was also managing attorney of the Seattle office of Kids in Need of Defense and recently joined the International Rescue Committee Washington to serve as Managing Attorney for Children's Legal Services Program. Janet has dedicated her legal career to providing legal representation to unaccompanied children in Washington State and fights tirelessly for the rights of the defenseless and most vulnerable immigrant populations.
Steffani has been tirelessly helping the Afghan national community since the entire situation descended on our doorsteps. She has devoted endless (literally hundreds) hours to pro bono work in advice, filing cases, advocacy, and more. She continues to take asylum cases from the community, even when her capacity is maxed out. She lives to serve and we are incredibly lucky that she is an AILA WA member.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 23062004.
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