AILA's Pro Bono Newsletter

Pro Bono Newsletter, Fall 2013

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Record Attendance, Volunteerism at 2013 AC Pro Bono Clinic More Than 40 AILA Attorneys Took Time Out To Assist More Than 240 Aspiring New Citizens by David Palmer T his year's AILA Annual Conference Pro Bono Clinic hosted one of San Francisco's largest naturalization workshops—helping hundreds of Bay Area residents take concrete steps towards U.S. Citizenship. For the third year in a row, AILA annual conference attendees from around the country participated in AILA's Pro Bono Clinic to give back to the community temporarily "adopted" by the Annual Conference. We are delighted to report that the 2013 Pro Bono Clinic in San Francisco produced a record turnout in terms of both attorney volunteers and attendees. To help reach some of the estimated 100,000 plus naturalization-eligible residents in San Francisco, AILA's Pro Bono Clinic teamed up with the city's newly formed Pathway to Citizenship Initiative, a group of local immigration-focused nonprofits, and provided assistance with naturalization education, eligibility screening, naturalization applications, and fee waivers. More than 40 AILA attorneys took time out of their busy conference schedules to volunteer. Bringing their expertise to bear, clinic volunteers made direct positive contributions to more than 240 aspiring new citizens—helping to remove cost, access, language, and knowledge barriers to the naturalization process. All Saturday morning and into the afternoon, AILA attorneys met with clinic attendees to carefully consider each individual's naturalization eligibility, AILA volunteers hard at work in San Francisco. advised on complex naturalization issues, and reviewed naturalization applications and supporting evidence. The Pro Bono Clinic was equipped to provide naturalization assistance in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Russian. This multilingual capacity proved vital as an estimated 85% of attendees required some level of foreign language support. And, with an eye to increase the success rate of each naturalization applicant, diligent clinic volunteers helped clinic attendees with application packaging and made copies for their records. We are happy to confirm that many of our attendees left the clinic with their applications ready to mail, or very close to it. Planning and hosting the 2013 Pro Bono Clinic was truly a community effort. UC Hastings College of the Law, a long-time friend to AILA's Northern California chapter, graciously donated the use of its facilities to accommodate the clinic's hundreds of attendees and volunteers. AILA also worked closely with members of San Francisco's Pathway to Citizenship Initiative who assisted with community and press outreach, logistical support, foreign language support, and knowledgeable volunteers. This Initiative is made up of seven nonprofits, each with long-standing history in serving local immigrant populations. This newly formed group recently came together under the sponsorship of the City of San Francisco to implement an ambitious three-year program to dramatically increase local levels of naturalization through extensive community outreach and by holding frequent, free naturalization workshops. Fortunately, in providing the opportunity, venue, and legal expertise of dozens of AILA attorneys, the 2013 Pro Bono Clinic doubled as the ideal occasion to launch SF Pathway to Citizenship's very first community outreach efforts. In looking back at AILA's 2013 Annual Conference, it is nearly certain that Pro Bono Clinic volunteers found their participation in the clinic to be one of their most rewarding experiences of the conference. Why? Because the Pro Bono Clinic provided attorney volunteers with two very positive experiences—giving freely of themselves to those who need and appreciate their expertise, and building genuine camaraderie with intelligent and compassionate AILA members from across the globe. AILA, and its Pro Bono team, is very proud of the accomplishments of this year's clinic and is especially pleased with the strong and positive connections it forged between AILA and Bay Area immigration nonprofits. We hope that you will consider joining us for next year's Pro Bono Clinic in Boston! David Palmer was the 2012-2013 Co-Chair of the AILA Northern California Chapter Pro Bono Committee. 3

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