Information for Pro Bono Coordinators
CILA has a new project to feature different creative models for pro bono engagement and to showcase expert tips, ideas, and resources to enhance pro bono programs. We will continue to build upon this page so stay tuned.
CILA & Pro Bono
Many children have legal relief available that could offer them protection and more security in the United States. The only thing missing is knowledge and guidance to navigate the system. The need is greater than the services the current system of non-profit legal service providers can provide. The needs of this resilient group of children are specialized: attorneys must earn the trust of young people from all over the world who have traveled a long way from their homes and support systems, understand the nuances of the dynamic immigration system, be ready to work on a case for years, and communicate using child friendly practices in languages other than English. There is no doubt that appointing a free, specialized attorney to every child in this system is the gold standard. Until that standard is realized, many children need help from attorneys on a pro bono basis to fill this gap.
We encourage legal service providers to center the needs of their clients and their organization when developing pro bono programs while taking into consideration the strengths of different pro bono attorneys or volunteers. Immigration law is complex, and many rules and policies are constantly changing or subject to federal litigation. Immigration court is regulated by the Attorney General of the United States making the rules quite different from federal or state court, or even administrative courts. Appeals are often necessary. Recently arrived children and youth have often survived multiple forms of trauma, like physical or sexual assault, death of a loved one, extreme poverty, and detention, which makes them an incredibly unique and resilient population to work with. Many children facing deportation may be eligible for a visa called “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” that allows the child to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. That visa requires certain findings from a state court based on state law which will vary based on the state where the child is living.
Pro bono attorneys may not have experience working with children, immigrants or in the immigration or family court systems. Pro bono attorneys may, however, bring other skills that may be helpful to litigating your client's cases such as appellate brief drafting, experience working with experts, litigation experience, or federal court expertise. Some pro bono attorneys may have the resources of a large law firm, including administrative staff and resources; others may have the expertise and creativity of an independent law practice; others may be looking for a short-term opportunity and some may want the fulfillment of seeing a case out until the end; some may be required to partake in pro bono opportunities and others may seek it out. Creating a successful program for your client and organization that also retains the interest and commitment of the pro bono attorney is often a matching process- finding the right opportunities for the right pro bono attorneys. We also recognize that relationship-building with professionals outside of the non-profit immigration law community may also bring other benefits to your program, such as financial donations, public awareness, and advocacy opportunities. We encourage legal service providers to center the client when balancing those additional benefits. We hope the resources below spark your creativity in identifying the needs of your clients and organizations to create opportunities that are well-matched for pro bono attorneys in support of children facing deportation. If you would like to post your pro bono opportunities on our national portal, Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation, please visit: http://www.cilacademy.org/pro-bono/.