Pro Bono Spotlight Four: Illuminating the Path to Permanent Citizenship
Bringing immigration clients security and freedom through pro bono representation
Too often, people immigrate to the United States to escape relentless gender-based attacks, suffocating religious persecution, or unrestrained violence in their home countries. These immigrants travel to the United States with spirits fueled by the hope of a better and brighter future for themselves and their families, and risk their lives on long and arduous journeys for a chance at that better and brighter future. Once the physical travel is complete, immigrants must then navigate the complex and foreign political, cultural, and linguistic waters of earning citizenship.
The path to achieving an adequate employment authorization to stay and earn a living within the United States is convoluted. And it represents just the first hard step on an individual’s path to full citizenship. Schwabe’s Omar Contreras “can empathize and understand where a pro bono client seeking employment authorization is coming from. I moved here from the Dominican Republic at age six, and without knowing a word of English, so I experienced the extreme difficulties inherent in navigating the complicated maze of governmental systems without adequate cultural knowledge or insufficient language skills.”
While an employment authorization provides a pathway to earning an honest living, immigration cases can take years to work their way through the federal justice system. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to already agonizing delays, as social distancing and lack of access to technology for virtual participation can limit one’s ability to fully participate in the process. Of working on immigration cases, Omar states, “It’s different from the nuanced issues involved in the handling of an important business transaction; these immigration cases involve someone’s life on a very personal and intimate level. It’s the difference between returning to a dangerous environment or staying here to make a living for themselves and their children. This is high-risk work.”
We at Schwabe understand that high-risk work can be worth the reward of helping change a life for the better. We will continue striving to bring our pro bono immigration clients the security and freedom that comes with permanent citizenship and the right to work with dignity and live better, more fulfilling lives within the United States.
This Pro Bono Spotlight is part of our Schwabe 2020 Pro Bono Report.