On Thursday, June 23 the fifth and final Summer Forum 2022 panel discussion was held. We discussed the hot button issue of immigration policy and its fundamental intersection with human rights. Karen Grisez, Public Interest Counsel at Fried Frank led the conversation between:
- Marcia Maack, Director of Pro Bono Activities, Mayer Brown
- Austin Rose, Equal Justice Works Fellow, CAIR Coalition
- Shalea Morales, Universal Representation Attorney, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
- Adonia Simpson, Director of Policy and Pro Bono, ABA Commission on Immigration
Immigrant representation can take many forms. Our discussion focused on border and non-border representation, issues specific to detained individuals, and work on both the state and federal level. The panelists discussed their experiences working with immigrants and detained individuals, especially children, as well as the challenges our current immigration policy presents.
Shaleen Morales and Adonia Simpson shared how their organizations provide services for immigrants and fight for their right to stay in the U.S. Austin Rose added that CAIR Coalition provides a variety of specific resources for detained immigrants. All the panelists discussed how all their organizations provide services and counseling for both adults and kids. Shaleen emphasized the need for pro bono lawyers to provide individual representation and policy advocacy.
One of the significant issues facing detained individuals is a broken immigration system. Adonia explained that ICE often creates barriers for immigrants that need to appear in court. This will result in people not appearing for their court dates which negatively impacts their status. Marcia added how law firms can support this work by responding to these emerging issues and focusing on immigration policy advocacy. Firms, with the resources they can bring to bear, make a huge difference in the long-term goals of immigrant advocates. Additionally, they can be important allies in quick response requests. Currently, Mayer Brown is helping to tackle the evacuation of hundreds of Afghanistan female college students. They have also been involved in the evacuation of female jurists as the Taliban has moved into new areas.
There are many ways to get involved. CAIR Coalition provides internships and volunteer opportunities that are both virtual and in-person. Law students can participate in a number of ways. Austin advised that there are many pro bono projects across the country – not just at the border. Similarly, RMAIN has non-border opportunities to represent detained individuals, and you could work on policy issues with the ABA Commission on Immigration.
Immigration and human rights work is a field of great need. Volunteers who take on this work change their clients’ lives in profound ways. It is challenging but extremely rewarding work!