We are thrilled to announce the appointment of the Florence Project’s first ever Program Managers!
Kaitlin Porter, Lillian Aponte Miranda, and Anthony Pelino will be managing and leading our social services, children’s, and adult programs respectively as we continue to grow in response to escalating attacks on the rights of immigrants in the United States.
When Kaitlin started at the Florence Project over four years ago, she was one of three social workers on staff. Today, there are eight social workers on staff with several more positions to be filled.
Kaitlin has overseen the growth of the social services program over the past four and a half years, helping to identify and meet the evolving needs of our clients beyond their scope of their legal cases. She has also helped the Florence Project develop support mechanisms and trainings to ensure legal staff are providing effective, trauma-informed, and client centered services.
With a Master of Social Work from Boston College with a global practice concentration and a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish from Ursinus College, the Florence Project is a confluence of Kaitlin’s talents, interests, and educational background.
“Because there are so few social workers who work with detained immigrants, it has been a privilege and a challenge to build programs that provide effective services,” Kaitlin says.
“I do this work because detained immigrants are a vulnerable population who have often survived an immense amount of trauma and are acutely impacted by international affairs and politics.”
The expansion of the social services program will lead to more clients receiving critical support to address their needs outside of their legal cases, including advocacy for medical and mental health services, school enrollment support, and much more.
“I am encouraged, every single day, by the dedication of my colleagues and the resilience, strength, and compassion of immigrant children,” Lillian says. “I do this work because I believe in it and because I love it.”
Lillian began working with the Florence Project as a pro bono attorney in the summer of 2014. At the time, the number of unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge in the United States was extremely high, and Lillian felt she was uniquely positioned to help as a Spanish-speaking attorney in Arizona.
“That experience brought into clear focus the personal values of strength, resilience, and compassion that fundamentally motivate and drive me, and the reason that I had gone to law school in the first place: to work alongside and advocate for those in positions of vulnerability in our justice system,” Lillian says.
Since joining the Florence Project staff in 2016, Lillian has served as a Staff Attorney, Children’s Program Pro Bono Mentor, Pro Bono Program Manager, and now as the Children’s Program Manager.
Prior to joining the Florence Project, Lillian spent 11 years as an Associate Professor of Law at Florida International University College of Law in Miami, Florida, and she holds a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Anthony has been involved with the Florence Project since 1999, as the organization’s first out-of-state pro bono attorney. Impressed by the Florence Project’s work and mission, Anthony made two trips to Florence, AZ in 2000 to represent several detained immigrants and immediately saw firsthand the immense need for attorneys in rural Arizona. In 2001, he relocated from Massachusetts to Arizona and continued his immigration practice representing people facing deportation in Arizona.
Since that time, Anthony has successfully litigated over one hundred complex pro bono matters for the Florence Project. He joined the Florence Project team full time in 2018 and, in that time, has managed the Border Action Team, the Mental Health Team, and the Asylum Program.
“I have deeply admired and identified with the Florence Project and its mission since 1999 and am excited to be in this new position,” Anthony says.
“I am committed to the zealous representation of our clients and the preservation of human dignity in highly adversarial proceedings and am grateful to work with such a bright, talented, and dedicated staff. In this role, I am looking forward to expanding mentoring, hands-on training, and collaboration amongst all of our amazing programs.”
We know that our services are more important now than ever, and we are extremely fortunate to have these three talented leaders spearheading our direct services teams, as we face more complex cases than ever before.
Thank you for your ongoing support!