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Immigration Representation

Name of Non-Profit Agency: 
International Institute of Connecticut
Contact: 
Ellen Messali, Esq.
Immigration Attorney, Survivors of Torture Program
emessali@iiconn.org
203-336-0141 x201

Alicia Kinsman, Esq., akinsman@iiconn.org

Why is this assistance important to these clients? 
Connecticut is home to an overwhelming number of immigrants in removal proceedings who desperately need legal advice and representation. These immigrants face seemingly insurmountable obstacles when placed in removal proceedings or when proving their asylum claims, including language barriers, and the complexities of U.S. immigration law and court procedures. Those with limited financial resources are at the highest risk of being deported. As a result, many are separated from their families here in the United States and forced to return to places where they may face persecution and even death based upon their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Who are the clients? 
IICONN is a non-profit, non-sectarian social service agency dedicated to helping thousands of foreign-born persons and immigrants each year to achieve self-sufficiency. Our clients are newly-arrived immigrants, refugees, asylees, victims of crimes, and other foreign-born individuals in need of immigration assistance. They may need representation in Immigration Court, or they may be looking for assistance in obtaining immigration relief from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
What legal strategies do the pro bono lawyers use to assist the clients? 
Pro bono attorneys representing clients in immigration court will be performing a variety of tasks, such as client interviewing, document preparation, writing briefs and motions, research, and making court appearances. Those representing clients who are not in deportation proceedings will conduct client interviews, assess eligibility for immigration relief, prepare forms, and assemble packets for submission to USCIS.
If the pro bono attorney will be appearing for the client, in what court or other forum will that appearance be? 
In general, all appearances will take place in Hartford Immigration Court. For some types of relief, appearance in juvenile, family, or probate court may be necessary.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance? 
The outcome goal for this assistance is to provide eligible foreign born individuals with competent legal representation, in immigration court as well as in front of USCIS.
What time commitment is required to do this pro bono work? 
The time commitment depends on the type of case taken on by the pro bono attorney. Pro bono attorneys will be asked to complete an information form, which will request the amount of time the attorney is able to commit, as well as the type(s) of case(s) in which the attorney is interested.
Where is the pro bono work done? (For example, at a legal aid office or at the pro bono attorney's office.) 

This can be worked out between the pro bono attorney and his/her client.  The attorney is welcome to do the work in his/her office.  The Institute may also be able to provide space for meetings, and is also happy to provide ongoing technical assistance and support.

Give a short (1-paragraph) case example: 
Many clients come to our organization seeking asylum. A pro bono attorney who takes an asylum case will need to determine the client’s eligibility for asylum, because this form of relief is reserved for those who face persecution in their home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. If the client is eligible, the attorney will then file his appearance, an application for asylum, as well as his client’s pleadings at a master calendar hearing in Immigration Court. At the master calendar hearing, his client will also be given a date to come back for his final hearing, at which he’ll present his case for asylum. Before this date, the pro bono attorney will meet with his client regularly to prepare his written declaration and testimony. The attorney may also have to research country conditions, write a legal brief, and assemble a packet of evidence to submit to the court in advance of the hearing. At the hearing, the pro bono will conduct a direct examination of his client, as well as any other witnesses he is planning to offer. The judge often rules from the bench on the same day as the hearing.
If no How are those without full admission supervised to ensure avoidance of issues regarding unlicensed practice?: 
Attorneys must be fully admitted to practice, but they may be admitted in any state. Any attorney not admitted in the state of Connecticut must also take precautions to not advise on state specific matters such as marriage, divorce, etc.
If it is important that a pro bono lawyer already has particular legal background or training, please describe. 
Although we can work with pro bono lawyers of all legal backgrounds, ideal candidates will have a background in immigration law. It can also be helpful to have a background in criminal law.
What training is provided to pro bono lawyers doing this work? 
Trainings are offered to educate attorneys about the different types of cases that pro bono attorneys may be handling for the International Institute. In addition, the International Institute provides ongoing technical assistance.
Who provides the training? 
The International Institute facilitates these trainings, and sometimes we partner with other entities as well.
Where is the training held? How long does the training last? 
The trainings are not all alike, but our next training will be held partly at our office in Hartford and partly at the Hartford Immigration Court.
Who are the adverse parties (if any) for this type of work (for example, landlords, spouses, banks, government entities)? 
For the clients in deportation proceedings, the adverse party is the Department of Homeland Security
At what time of day is the pro bono work done (example evening clinic)?: 
This can also be worked out between attorney and client. If the attorney has a court appearance, this will likely be on a weekday morning or afternoon.
Does this pro bono work require full admission to practice in Connecticut? 
No. To practice immigration law and appear in Immigration Court here in Connecticut, an attorney must be fully admitted to practice in ANY state, but it doesn’t have to be the state where s/he is practicing or appearing in court.
Can the training be attended remotely (webinar or teleconference)? 
The abovementioned training cannot be attended remotely; but it is possible that a future training may be attended in this fashion.
When is the next training (after October 1) and how often is training offered? 

Our next training will cover how to represent individuals in asylum proceedings, and it will be held on Friday, April 19, 2013.  We are hopeful to have another training on a different topic before the end of the year.

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