Special Partnership-Adult
Perkins Coie

A drawing by a plaintiff’s daughter, hoping for his release.

“When the people in the immigration detention center saw [news about the lawsuits], they were overjoyed because they knew that other people, the attorneys, were fighting for them. And that there are people who exist that support those detained going through this situation,” reflected one client about the lawsuits to which the Perkins Coie team devoted countless hours. “And this gives them hope. It gives them strength to keep fighting and to get out [one day].”

Perkins Coie has long stood with the Florence Project as strong Pro Bono partners, but this summer re-defined the concept of “partnership.” This year, Perkins Coie devoted 1,439 hours to litigating by our side in the Arizona District Courts and training Florence Project staff.   Nine Perkins attorneys co-counseled with us in group and individual habeas actions, challenging the detention of twenty-three plaintiffs whose lives and well-being were threatened as COVID-19 spread through immigration detention facilities.

“There’s something really special about the opportunity to represent individuals in matters as important as their immigration case,” said Kristine Beaudoin, one of the attorneys on the Perkins Coie team. “I’m never more motivated to come to work than when I’m working on a project with the Florence Project.”

The Perkins team did more than provide brilliant representation to our clients. They taught and mentored us, strategized, hoped, and grieved with us. Partnering with this team gave us the strength, the confidence, the experience, and the inspiration to advocate for our clients in entirely new ways, in a forum new and unfamiliar.  It shone a light on unacceptable conditions, and let all of those detained in Eloy and La Palma know that their suffering was not unseen, and would not go unchallenged. It is our great honor to present the Perkins Coie team with the 2020 Special Partnership Award. Thank you to the full team: Daniel C. Barr, Kristine J. Beaudoin, Howard R. Cabot, Margo R. Casselman, John Gray, Janet M. Howe, Katherine May Bakke, Mathew L. Rojas, and Christopher Thomas.

Jennifer J. Axel and Maria Fernanda Hubbard
Polsinelli
Adult Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year

Jennifer J. Axel

When Jennifer Axel is asked what she learned when she took on a case with the Florence Project, she said, “so much. First of all…how Byzantine the rules are and somewhat how arbitrary the rules are…so really how important it is for the people seeking asylum and other types of immigration relief to have attorneys who represent them…I don’t know how anybody who is not a lawyer or doesn’t have the support of an organization like the Florence Project could actually successfully go through that process.”

Jen and her colleague, Maria Fernanda Hubbard, took what was originally a strong, but challenging, case and saw it through every hurdle this administration could create against asylum seekers. Over the course of their client, Shakira’s, case, they navigated changes in case law, unlawful and arbitrary regulations, and a global pandemic that forced them to prepare and litigate these complex issues over the phone.

Shakira

As Shakira, Jen, and Maria partnered to clear hurdle after hurdle, ICE refused to release Shakira, a transgender woman detained in a jail-like setting with men. Not only did Jen and Maria convince the Immigration Judge to grant withholding, setting up a perfect appeal to challenge the 3rd country transit ban, they secured her release through negotiations and strategic litigation in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.

Maria Fernanda Hubbard

When Maria was asked why she took on this case, she said: “I personally immigrated to the U.S. myself in the 90s, partly as a result of the violence in Colombia, so Shakira’s story really resonated with me.”

In this uncertain time, Shakira is on the verge of securing asylum.  Thanks to Jen and Maria, she awaits that answer from the comforts of home rather than the confines of a detention center.  Shakira embodies the asylum seekers this government has tried to cast aside – she is a resilient, valuable member of our community. We are so grateful to her determined Polsinelli team, for bringing the best values of our profession in defense of Shakira’s right to seek asylum, and we are thrilled to honor Jennifer J. Axel and Maria Fernanda Hubbard as our Adult Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year.

 

Hillary Farber

Hillary Farber
University of Massachusetts School of Law

Pro Bono Attorney of the Year

“One day after Hillary obtained another client’s release, the client enthusiastically exclaimed to me, ‘I

have the best attorney working on my case. I have Hillary Farber.’…Hillary is zealous advocacy personified. She is a prime example of what happens when passion meets intellect.” – Anthony Pelino, Adult Program Manager

Hillary Farber, an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts School of Law, chose to spend her sabbatical volunteering with our Direct Representation Program. She took on various cases during her sabbatical, fighting zealously for both children and adults.

Hillary (right), with Oscar, and Liz, another Florence Project attorney

One of Hillary’s clients, Oscar, is an elderly, indigenous man who fled to the U.S. after the Civil War in Guatemala. He had emerged as a community leader, helping to rebuild after government-led massacres, making him a target. Hillary helped Oscar win humanitarian asylum! Oscar frequently tells his Florence Project social worker how grateful he is for the help and what wonderful people he has come to know at the Florence Project.

With her background in criminal law and procedure, Hillary was able to artfully cut through the weeds of immigration court and develop strong arguments to fight against the erosion of due process. Hillary is a compassionate, dedicated advocate, and unflappable in the courtroom. Collaborating with a pro bono like Hillary infuses new life into the Florence Project’s legal strategies and gives us all energy to keep doing this important, difficult work. Without Hillary, various individuals would likely have lost their case or languished in detention. Thanks to Hillary, our attorneys added various litigation tools to their belts and became stronger advocates. We are so excited to honor Hillary as the 2020 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.

Snell and Wilmer
Special Partnership – Children’s Program

Ed Hermes

What would Snell & Wilmer attorney Ed Hermes say to someone who is considering taking on a pro bono immigration case with the Florence Project? “Do it. You will be so happy you helped someone in need. It is one of the best ways that attorneys can help change someone’s life forever.”

This year, Ed and his colleagues at Snell & Wilmer have impacted the lives of 10 unaccompanied immigrant children as they navigated through their complex and often traumatizing immigration cases, including taking on five cases since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Soheila Shahidi

The Florence Project is pleased to recognize Snell & Wilmer for their hard work, dedication, and exceptional partnership in representing child immigrants. Even during an unprecedented global pandemic, the Snell & Wilmer team stepped up to the plate in the name of public service.

For attorney Soheila Shahidi, taking on a case “is a very rewarding experience and an opportunity to serve human and learn more everyone involved.” In particular, Soheila was gratified by the hard work and collaboration between so many people to make a difference.

Alysha Green

The brilliant Snell & Wilmer teams have met with their clients virtually, listened to them tell their stories, successfully advocated against deportation, and started the process toward a permanent and secure life in the United States.

Alysha Green, another attorney on the Snell & Wilmer team, says a pro bono case “…is a wonderful opportunity to service the Arizona community and make a difference in a child’s life.”

Mercy

Mercy, one of the clients represented by the Snell & Wilmer team, said, “Without [my attorneys], I would not have bene able to pay an attorney to represent me, and for that, I am so grateful. To my pro bono attorneys, thank you for what you are doing for me without asking for anything in return, you are helping me, and I am so thankful with all my heart…From the moment I meant with you, you have helped me.”

With dedicated Snell & Wilmer attorneys by their side, these 10 children did not have to go through the quagmire of their immigration case alone.  Thank you to the full Snell & Wilmer team: Alexix Terriquez, Alysha Green, Amberlee Conley, Anthony Eulano, Ben Nucci, Courtney Henson, Ed Hermes, Gabrielle Morlock, Jennifer Puchalski, Jessica Kemper, John Vryhof, Kelly Daly, Lauren Munsell, Lauren Podgorski, Matthew Grumbling, Russell Johnson, Soheila Shahidi, and Kevin Wright.

The Florence Project is honored and thankful for this partnership, and looks forward to continued collaboration in the future.

Vidula Patki
Coppersmith Brockelman PLLC
Children’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year

“Of all the work I’ve done professionally…the work I’ve done with the Florence Project has been the most meaningful. It’s really gratifying to be able to use your skills to literally change someone’s life.”

Vidula Patki

In Vidula’s first case with the Florence Project Children’s Program, after taking on an adult asylum case, she represented a young mother and her one-year old daughter, who had fled Guatemala. From the beginning of the case, Vidula and her clients immediately connected, and as soon as she secured release from detention for them, she immediately asked for another case!

When Vidula’s clients learned about her award, they were very excited to send their congratulations. One of her clients cried when she remembered how Vidula stood by her, a testament to Vidula’s exceptional dedication to her clients.

A drawing by Marcelina for Vidula

Her client, Marcelina, said, “I like the way Vidula talks to me and helps me with my case. I want to say thank you to Vidula for working with me and helping me. You are very smart and friendly, and you make me feel better about my case.”

We honor Vidula for her fearlessness, tenacity, compassion, and whole-hearted commitment to her clients. Thank you, Vidula!

 

Jennifer J. Axel and Maria Fernanda Hubbard
Polsinelli
Adult Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year

When Jennifer Axel is asked what she learned when she took on a case with the Florence Project, she laughed. “So much,” she said. “First of all…how Byzantine the rules are and somewhat how arbitrary the rules are…so really how important it is for the people seeking asylum and other types of immigration relief to have attorneys who represent them…I don’t know how anybody who is not a lawyer or doesn’t have the support of an organization like the Florence Project could actually successfully go through that process.”

Jen and her colleague, Maria Fernanda Hubbard, took what was originally a strong, but challenging, case and saw it through every hurdle this administration could create against asylum seekers. Over the course of Shakira’s case, they navigated changes in case law, unlawful and arbitrary regulations, and a global pandemic that forced them to prepare and litigate these complex issues over the phone.

As Shakira, Jen, and Maria partnered to clear hurdle after hurdle, ICE refused to release Shakira, a transgender woman detained in a jail-like setting with men. Not only did Jen and Maria convince the Immigration Judge to grant withholding, setting up a perfect appeal to challenge the 3rd country transit ban, they secured her release through negotiations and strategic litigation in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.

When Maria was asked why she took on this case, she said: “I personally immigrated to the U.S. myself in the 90s, partly as a result of the violence in Colombia, so Shakira’s story really resonated with me.”

In this uncertain time, Shakira is on the verge of securing asylum.  Thanks to Jen and Maria, she awaits that answer from the comforts of home rather than the confines of a detention center.  Shakira embodies the asylum seekers this government has tried to cast aside – she is a resilient, valuable member of our community. We are so grateful to her determined Polsinelli team, for bringing the best values of our profession in defense of her right to seek asylum.

 

Join the virtual event honoring our pro bono attorneys anytime!