From October 22 – 28, Ayuda celebrates Pro Bono Week to recognize the attorneys and law firms who amplify our impact for immigrants.

Ayuda’s Pro Bono Program serves hundreds of immigrants each year – through brief advice and referral clinics, direct representation, and special projects. These initiatives allow Ayuda to provide legal services beyond the limits of our staff capacity. But they are only possible through the support of our generous pro bono partners and their passionate attorneys.

In honor of Pro Bono Week, we’re shining a light on three of our most dedicated pro bono volunteers and our oldest Pro Bono Partner. 

Ayuda’s Pro Bono work began in 1987 through a newly forged partnership with the law firm Arnold & Porter. Since then, Ayuda’s Pro Bono Program has only grown – as has our partnership with Arnold & Porter. 

Most recently, A&P has been partnering with Ayuda on a special project to secure work permits for newly arrived migrants. Many of these asylum seekers are eligible for parole-based work permits, but filing the application and paying the $410 fee is out of reach for them. Fortunately, A&P’s attorneys have been working with migrants to cover the fee and file their applications, with mentorship from Ayuda’s experienced staff attorneys.

Patent Agent Dr. Huimin Chen (pictured left), Senior Associate Evi Li (pictured center), and Associate Danait Mengist (pictured right) from the Arnold & Porter team shared some reflections about their experience volunteering with Ayuda’s Pro Bono Program. 

Arnold and Porter staff member Huimin Chen's headshot
Arnold and Porter staff member Evi Li's headshot
Arnold and Porter staff member Danait Mengist's headshot
What motivated you to get involved in pro bono work, specifically with Ayuda?

As immigrants who have gone through different immigration-related processes, we are aware of the difficulties immigrants face in their application processes e.g., Employment Authorization Documents (“EADs”), especially when they lack resources and/or English proficiency. Through Ayuda’s EAD project, we have an opportunity to help those immigrants coming to the U.S. as parolees with our legal knowledge and professional skills. We also believe that our assistance to these immigrants helps make a great contribution to our community and society in general.

What types of cases have you worked on, and how has Ayuda guided you in the representation of your immigrant clients?

We have assisted individuals who entered the United States under a Title 42 exemption and granted a 1-year parole, to apply for their EAD cards. Ayuda provided us with the necessary training and mentorship along the way, including consultation and responses to any questions we had during the EAD application process.

Our mentor at Ayuda was always available to guide us through the application process and available resources in Ayuda’s and USCIS’ websites. Ayuda’s assistance also consisted of providing feedback before filing the EAD applications. 

Share a success story or a challenging situation you faced while volunteering with Ayuda's Pro Bono Program?

Our first clients recently received their EAD cards, allowing them to legally work in the United States. This is a significant milestone for them and their families as it got them on their feet to start a new life, including supporting their family and giving back to our society. It was a joy to see how happy the clients were in receiving their EAD cards, and having this opportunity to start their lives in the U.S. 

What advice would you give to someone considering getting involved in pro bono work with Ayuda?

Ayuda’s pro bono work is quite meaningful and rewarding, particularly when we know that our pro bono work is helping our clients to find a new job and start a new life in a new country they never lived in before. Ayuda’s mentors always assist pro bono attorneys during the process in terms of substantive law and procedure. Ayuda’s project is a wonderful opportunity for pro bono attorneys to give back to the society and especially to those in need who because of their social, economic and language challenges face a tough road to adjustment to our society. As Ayuda provides training and assistance needed during visa/work permit processes with USCIS, prior experience in immigration practice is not necessary. Ayuda and its mentors are there to assist.

Ayuda is always seeking to expand our impact and build new Pro Bono Partnerships. Whether or not a firm has immigration law expertise, we have opportunities to sponsor pro bono clinics, directly take on cases, or embark on special projects. Reach out to learn how you can become part of Ayuda’s Pro Bono Impact: [email protected].