In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Pro Bono Net has lined up a variety of guest bloggers from law firms, legal aid organizations and elsewhere to share their pro bono ideas and experiences. Check back each day between Oct. 22-26 for new posts, and visit the Celebrate Pro Bono site to learn how you can get involved in events near you.
Below, we are pleased to present a guest post from Parisa K. Karaahmet , a Partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy. Parisa is also on the faculty of Practising Law Institute, one of Pro Bono Net’s corporate sponsors.
Often, people come to the United States seeking a more secure life for themselves and their family members. Some are fleeing political repression, poor economic conditions or an unstable and unsafe environment. Frequently, these individuals and their families lack a strong support system or funds, and may not even speak, read or write English.
While a respondent in removal (deportation) proceedings is entitled to a lawyer, they are not entitled to a lawyer at government cost. This means that some respondents may have to either represent themselves, or hire a low-cost lawyer or immigration provider who does not always deliver high quality representation.
The consequences of failure to someone who lacks adequate representation can be harsh; if an application for an immigration benefit is denied, that person and their family can face deportation to their home country. Therefore, in my opinion, it is the responsibility of every immigration lawyer to devote themselves to taking on pro bono matters where and when they can to help a population that is frequently underepresented or disadvantaged.
I am privileged to be a member of a law firm that takes its commitment to pro bono work seriously, and expects and encourages its lawyers to take on pro bono cases. I think that desire to make a positive impact in the pro bono arena is at least partially a result of my own experience. In 1979, on the eve of the Iranian Revolution, my family found ourselves in the U.S. without a country and without status, my father just having resigned his high profile position with the Iranian Government. Although I was just a child at the time, I still recall the anxiety and uncertainty in my parents voices when they discussed the future and our inability to return home. We were fortunate in being able to remain in the U.S. to build a new life. I would like to help give others the same opportunity.