Children’ s Program Pro Bono Attorney of the Year – Clara S. Acosta
Clara S. Acosta is an established labor and employment attorney at Lubin & Enoch, PC. Clara, a former Florence Project intern, has worked on the cases of two young Guatemalan girls, and was able to accompany each girl on her journey to acquiring status in the United States. As a daughter of immigrants, Clara was drawn to the Florence Project as a supporter of our work and dedication to treating immigrants in a comprehensive and full way. Clara believes that volunteering is the most invaluable thing you can do as an attorney, and her determination, empathy, and brilliance proved essential to gaining her clients’ trust as they navigated the complexities of an oft unjust immigration system. We are grateful for Clara’s partnership and are thrilled to honor her for her contributions.
Children’s Program Special Partnership Award – Refugee Aid
Refugee Aid was formed in 2018, after its members witnessed increased violence and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Members of the organization had already represented several Florence Project clients as pro bono attorneys, but Refugee Aid was excited to assist in addition always. The Florence Project contacts Refugee Aid whenever a home is needed for a child aging out of the detention shelters, and Refugee Aid quickly mobilizes its community network to find host families.
During the pandemic, Refugee Aid has identified emergency housing for at least five young folks aging out of children’s detention. Because of their quick action, those young folks did not have to go to adult detention on their 18th birthday and are instead placed with supportive host families. Refugee Aid has also been a critical partner in the continued support of our clients, including providing clothing and household goods, so that our clients can live their everyday lives. Finally, they warm our hearts at the end of each year by throwing a holiday party for our clients, providing them with an opportunity to spend time in joy and cheer. The Florence Project is deeply grateful to Refugee Aid for rising to the moment and providing our clients with much needed services and support.
Adult Program Pro Bono Attorney of the Year – Lisa Fein Siegel, Esq.
We are eager to honor Lisa Fein Siegel, Esq., not just because she took multiple cases or because she won them, but because of her incredible partnership with her clients. It is astounding to work with someone who can so wonderfully blend law, argument, and client-centered advocacy to present a case in such away that a judge has little choice but to grant relief. Lisa speaks of her clients more as collaborators in their own cases than simply clients. Recognizing Lisa is also a celebration of the contributions of all of our retired colleagues. Retired attorneys come to us with decades of experience and an unusual resource in the legal field: time. That time of course is their hard-earned rest, so we are particularly thankful for their work and eager to celebrate their contributions
Adult Program Special Partnership Award – The Asylum and Convention Against Torture Clinic, Cornell School of Law
The Cornell Asylum and Convention Against Torture Clinic is emblematic of the important role that law school clinics play, not only in advocating for individual clients, but in training students who will enter the legal field as fierce advocates for justice. In the words of Co-Director Stephen Yale-Loehr, the Clinic “puts the human face to law,” inspiring its students, faculty, and larger community with each appeal it handles. We are particularly eager to honor the holistic, comprehensive advocacy of the Cornell Clinic. In the last two years, Cornell students provided an emotional and legal lifeline to their client, Dr. Merlys Rodriguez Hernandez, a Cuban asylum-seeker who became gravely ill with COVID-19 while in ICE detention. Advocating far beyond their legal representation, they elevated her story and her voice through the media, human rights groups, and medical journals. With Cornell’s support, Merlys became a vocal advocate for the rights and safety of those detained by ICE during COVID-19.
The Clinical so litigated a second appeal for a transgender woman who was unjustly denied asylum. Their outstanding brief persuaded the Board of Immigration Appeals to reverse and grant asylum out right to their client, Paty. “The University has been an essential part of our case and has offered us its selfless help and its emotional support. They have been the light at the end of the tunnel.”-Dr. Rodriguez Hernandez
Volunteer of the Year – Respond Crisis Translation
We are very excited to announce our very ﬁrst “Volunteer of the Year” award recipient. For the year 2021, we have chosen Respond Crisis Translation because of all their incredible support.
Without the support of volunteer translators and interpreters, meaningful conversations would be impossible and important evidence could be lost. Many clients come with medical records, countries and it is crucial we get those documents translated because they become important evidence in their cases. Having accurate translations helps us thoroughly understand our clients’ stories and allows us to effectively advocate for their rights.
EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE AWARD – KACEY C. ERNST, MPH PhD
Dr. Ernst has been an invaluable resource to the Florence Project over the years, providing consultations on how to safely serve our clients during the midst of several outbreaks at Arizona detention facilities, including the pandemic. We are eternally grateful to Dr. Ernst for her unwavering commitment to the Florence Project and her partnership with us has resulted in policies and procedures that better protect our staff and clients. Congratulations, Dr. Ernst, this year’s Exceptional Service Award winner!
Read our fully digital Pro Bono Booklet here.