Mobilizing Pro Bono
In the spring of 2013, two weeks after attending an immigration law training session hosted by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld*†, AT&T Inc.** volunteers put their skills to use by participating in a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival mega-clinic. At the clinic, set in a local Dallas high school that serves a large immigrant population, AT&T attorneys counseled more than 250 immigrants regarding eligibility and in filling out detailed applications. The clinic was designed as a one-day project; however, one client who needed more assistance stuck out to Belinda Marin Boling, a co-chair of AT&T’s southwest region’s pro bono program, and she felt compelled to continue her representation.
The client, a senior at the high school, had walked for more than an hour just to attend the clinic, and she did not arrive alone: she had come with her four younger siblings in tow, all of whom had been under her care since the abduction of her mother six months prior. With support from the Human Rights Initiative, Boling helped the client apply for a Special Juvenile Immigrant Status (SJIS) visa, a pathway to become a Lawful Permanent Resident that is available only to minors who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Tragically, a protest in Mexico closed the only road to her father’s village and prevented the delivery of the papers required for this SJIS filing before the filing deadline of the client’s eighteenth birthday. On that day, the day on which she had “aged out” of the SJIS requirements, police informed the client and her family that their mother had been brutally murdered.
On the heels of this horrific news, AT&T and the Human Rights Initiative filed an application for a U-Visa that gives victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the U.S., and, which after three years, allows the holder to apply for a green card; although only 10,000 of such U-Visas are awarded each fiscal year, this client’s application was successful! After graduating fourth in her class, the client is now a student at Texas A&M University with a social security number and employment authorization, all thanks to the work of AT&T and its partners.
With the necessary support and training from its partners, AT&T was able to save its client from the risk of deportation, so that she can continue to use her education, intelligence, and drive to support her family and to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician. Indeed, partnerships like the one between AT&T, Akin Gump, and the Human Rights Initiative reveal that some of the best pro bono doesn’t necessarily happen in the courtroom or end at the close of a clinic.
For more information on immigration-related pro bono work read Pro Bono Assistance for Young Immigrants or listen to the webinar, Pro Bono in Practice: Immigration Update.
** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
* denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project