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American Immigration Lawyers Association Creates New Pro Bono Program

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has announced the AILA DREAM Defenders (AD2) pro bono program, which will support young adults who would benefit from the DREAM Act if it were to pass Congress and be signed into law.

AILA has committed to match qualifying young adults with immigration attorneys who will provide legal services free of charge.

The DREAM Defenders program is a collaboration between AILA, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the National Immigration Law Center, DREAM Activist, United We Dream, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, and Educators for Fair Consideration, and is the first national partnership of its kind.

AILA will receive cases from its coalition partners, which will then be passed on to AILA member attorneys who will provide pro bono services as AD2 volunteers.

"The legal assistance we can provide is essential," said AILA Immediate Past-President David Leopold. "Without an attorney beside them, DREAM Act candidates, who are educated and ready to contribute to our society, may find themselves in a tough situation. With AD2, we really are defending dreams; this is the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs that America needs to prosper."

Many national organizations have been engaged in advocacy efforts to promote the DREAM Act and have also taken action to protect individual DREAMers from deportation.

"This partnership of DREAM Defenders strengthens our advocacy campaigns," said Mohammad Abdollahi of DREAM Activist, an online action and resource network for DREAMers and their allies. "Never before have we been able to list legal representation among our cache of tools for DREAMers. AILA's participation makes the push for change more concrete. We can all help these promising young people together."

AILA President Eleanor Pelta said of AD2 and the new DREAM Defenders partnership, "I'm very proud of this venture. For several years, AILA attorneys have worked with non profit organizations to assist DREAMers with pro bono legal representation. This partnership builds on their work by creating a formal referral process that DREAM advocacy organizations can use to match individual cases with AILA's AD2 attorneys."

Despite a continuous conversation on the national level regarding the DREAM Act and how it would benefit America, Congress has yet to pass legislation. While that debate continues, immigrant youth are facing deportation at record-high levels. For that reason, the DREAM Defenders partnership will be in effect at least until the bill passes.

To qualify for relief under the DREAM Act, an individual must have come to the U.S. before turning 16-years-old and must be under the age of 35; he or she must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and graduated from high school or passed an equivalency exam; additionally, he or she must have good moral character and must either attend college or enlist in the military for two years.

"AD2 means that together, we really can make a difference in the life of a DREAMer and in the future of our communities," said Pelta.

AILA attorneys can sign-up as volunteers or mentors for the DREAM Defenders program immediately. For further information about the program, please contact Susan Timmons, AILA's Manager of Pro Bono Programs, at STimmons@aila.org or 202-507-7646.

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