AILA's Pro Bono Newsletter

Pro Bono Newsletter, Fall 2012

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DACA Allows Filmmaker to Pursue His Dream by Diana Fakhrai W legal advice for his documentary student film. The documentary, Almost American, followed the plight of Gloria, an undocumented graduate of Harvard University who was unable to find a job because of her status. I soon realized the entire film crew working on the documentary was a remarkable group of undocumented individuals. hen I first met Marcos Nieves it was in 2008 while I was working at Catholic Charities. He asked if I could provide Marcos migrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. Similar to the accounts from my clients and friends, Marcos' parents brought him to the U.S. for the chance of a better education and a better life. "While I managed to assimilate to the American lifestyle, I also learned a new language. I finished high school with honors, I earned a B.A. in film and Electronic Arts from California State University, Long Beach, and I advocated for the rights of undocumented youth. Yet, this is still not enough. All these accomplishments in my life and struggles have affected me deeply, which makes me question: Do I really have a better life? The reality is that I am still undocumented and I cannot start my career without a work permit." Four years later, I saw Marcos and a few others from the film crew again. It was now 2012 and DACA had recently passed. I again offered them all what I had expressed to them back in 2008—that if the DREAM Act or another type of immigration reform was to u WATCH: A trailer for the documentary Almost American pass, then I would be honored to represent them as their pro bono attorney. I am happy to say that Marcos and another member of the crew accepted my offer. When I asked Marcos what he felt, he said, "I feel blessed and very fortunate to have the opportunity to apply for Deferred Action. This will positively impact my life…. if I get approved, I will have a fair opportunity to pursue my goals and reward all the sacrifices and struggles my parents encountered through this journey. I will be able to exercise my skills and start my career that has been placed on hold. American, Marcos, a college graduate, is unable to pursue his career and aspirations in film because of his undocumented status. "My passion is to make a positive impact in the life of others through visual storytelling. DACA is giving me a shot at pursing the dream I have cherished. Although DACA does not grant lawful immigration status or any benefits for our parents, it gives a dose of hope to thousands of undocumented youth that lived in the shadows " Similar to Gloria's situation in Almost CHAPTER HAPPENINGS: MINNESOTA The Minnesota AILA chapter has worked closely with The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) to deliver pro bono services to DACA clients. Upon the announcement of the program, ILCM reached out to the local AILA chapter to request immediate pro bono assistance; over 40 AILA attorneys responded and volunteered their assistance. Since that time, ILCM has held six community screening workshops across the state for potential DACA applicants. Pro bono attorneys from AILA and the general private bar have provided invaluable assistance not only with several of those workshops, but with full representation for DACA clients. Overall, ILCM has been able to place over 100 pro bono DACA full representation cases and is continuing to train new volunteer attorneys and place new pro bono cases every day. to pursue the American Dream in the nation of opportunities." I am honored to help Marcos and others achieve this dream and proud of AILA and the Pro Bono committee that encourages attorneys to give back to others. Diana G. Fakhrai is a private immigration attorney in Los Angeles, California. She is currently a member of the National AILA Pro Bono Committee, and Co-Chair of the SoCal AILA Chapter New Member Division. www.aila.org 3

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