CHAPTER HAPPENINGS: WASHINGTON, D.C.
D.C. Chapter Offers Pro Bono Pledge Incentives
by Dree Collopy
CITIZENSHIP DAY: The AILA-DC Chapter partnered with local
community-based organizations to hold Citizenship Day workshops
at locations throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Because the DC Chapter covers a wide geographic region and
encompasses a diverse population, eight workshops were held on
April 20 and April 27, 2013 in locations ranging from Baltimore,
Maryland to Richmond, Virginia. The AILA-DC Chapter again
worked with long-time partners Central American Resource Center
(CARECEN), Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School,
and CASA de Maryland to host the Citizenship Day workshops. This
year the DC Chapter also reached out to some new groups, including
the Ethiopian Community Center and Jesus House, a church with a
mostly Nigerian congregation.
In an effort to reach a broad spectrum of the immigrant population,
flyers were translated into Amharic, French, and Korean, in addition to English and Spanish. Ms. Gloria Williams-Brevard, public
engagement officer for the USCIS Washington District Office, noted
how appreciative a number of community groups were when they
found Citizenship Day information printed in their native languages.
This year AILA-DC partner Catholic Charities Esperanza Center is
celebrating its 50th anniversary. So in addition to the legal clinic,
Citizenship Day in Baltimore included a community fair with
displays and performances by various immigrant groups. AILA-DC
community partner FIRN also extended its celebration of the naturalization process by hosting, in partnership with USCIS, a special
naturalization ceremony the month following Citizenship Day.
Overall, AILA-DC volunteers helped over 150 applicants with their
applications for naturalization during Citizenship Day 2013.
ILA members have a long history of providing
generous and committed pro bono service to
indigent clients and underserved communities,
whether through direct legal representation, policy
advocacy, monetary contributions, or service on
boards and committees that endeavor to support
the pro bono community. Yet, given our broken
immigration system and the pervasive problem of
unauthorized practice of law, the need for pro bono
assistance continues to grow.
In an effort to inspire, support, and recognize the
pro bono service of its members, AILA's Practice
& Professionalism Center has asked members to
publicly commit to pro bono service by taking the
AILA Member Pro Bono Pledge. The Pledge is a
promise by AILA members to their community
to contribute a minimum number of pro bono
hours during the calendar year. Any member who
reports their completion of the Pledge prior to
December 31st in that calendar year will receive
special acknowledgment according to the category of
recognition they have achieved: those who pledged
and completed 50 hours will be recognized as Pro
Bono Guardians, 100 hours—Pro Bono Benefactors,
150+ hours—Pro Bono Champions, or 150+ direct
service hours for nonprofit legal service providers—
Pro Bono VIPs.
By taking the Pledge, AILA members inspire and
support one another and receive well-deserved
Take the Pro Bono Pledge!
acknowledgement of their pro bono service. Still,
many AILA members who complete numerous
pro bono hours every year remain unaware of the
Pledge. In an effort to raise awareness and incentivize
members to take the Pledge, the AILA DC Chapter
surprised three of its members in February by
awarding them with $500 scholarships toward the
registration fee for AILA's Annual Conference in San
Francisco this June. The three scholarship recipients
were randomly chosen from among those AILA DC
Chapter members who signed up for and satisfied
the requirements of the 2012 AILA Pro Bono Pledge.
In recognition and appreciation of its members, the
DC Chapter also publicized in its Chapter Newsletter
a full list of chapter members who participated in
and completed the 2012 Pledge. The DC Chapter
plans to award more prizes next year to those
participating in the AILA Member 2013 Pro Bono
Pledge. AILA encourages other chapters to follow
the DC Chapter's example to raise awareness and
incentivize members to take the Pro Bono Pledge.
Dree Collopy is the Pro Bono Liaison for AILA's DC
Chapter and Chair of the AILA National Refugee and
Asylum Liaison Committee.