In our community of immigration attorneys, we often do pro bono work without any kind of recognition. And, if that’s how you roll, that’s absolutely fine! But, as a member of AILA’s Pro Bono Committee, I actually want to brag about each and every one of our members who change peoples’ lives through pro bono. By using your legal expertise, and giving of your time, you can literally save lives, keep families together, help someone become eligible to vote, and so much more.
With 16,000+ members, celebrating each of you individually probably isn’t possible, but let me take a moment to highlight one particular way that your pro bono work helped this year: the AILA AC Pro Bono Clinic.
Each year during the AILA Annual Conference, the AILA National Pro Bono Committee partners with local chapters and organizations to host a pro bono event. This year, we partnered with the AILA Central Florida Chapter and Mi Familia Vota to hold a citizenship clinic. Even before I was a member of the AILA Pro Bono Committee, I have to admit, the AC clinic was one of my favorite events of the year.
This year, I think the best part about the experience was how well-run and organized this clinic was. Before even arriving in Florida for the conference, volunteers received detailed email communications and training opportunities, as well as instructions on using the CitizenshipWorks platform. For those not attending the conference, there was even an option to participate remotely.
On the Saturday of the conference, in-person volunteers met at the conference convention center, where a shuttle was waiting to take us to the clinic location. We all arrived, laptops in hand, and headed to the Osceola County Extension building, where Mi Familia Vota volunteers had everything set up and waiting for us. The room was divided into three sections: Check-in/waiting area; form review; and check-out. The attorneys were stationed at tables and matched with clients as they arrived. This was my first time using the CitizenshipWorks platform and I was very impressed. The event organizers were able to use the system to link the volunteer attorney with the client so their pre-prepared Naturalization Application fed directly to the attorney’s laptop. This made it super simple to read through the questions with the clients.
Because of how many attorneys gave their time for this event, I was able to spend as much time as I needed with the three clients I was assigned. In addition to attorney volunteers, there were paralegals and law students there to translate or review forms. The clients I assisted were all very grateful for the assistance and happy to share about their lives in Florida and paths that led them to applying for citizenship. It was rewarding to help these hard-working individuals prepare their. At the end of the event, volunteers were treated to empanadas, wraps, Cuban sandwiches, pastries, and juice from Melao Bakery in Orlando, which was hosted by the AILA Central Florida Chapter.
Ultimately, the in-person clinic with Mi Familia Vota had 22 volunteers and 42 completed naturalization applications. For the remote clinic, there were 18 volunteers and 32 completed applications. In total, that’s 40 AILA volunteers (attorneys, paralegals, and law students) who helped 74 lawful permanent residents prepare their naturalization applications for submission.
This #AILAProBonoWeek, I’m so grateful for everyone who helped at the AC clinic and all the amazing work you did all year round – I’m already looking forward to the pro bono event next year in Chicago, when we can celebrate each other and help people!