Celebrating Pro Bono Week

At our annual dinner in last Wednesday in New York City, Human Rights First presented the 2016 Marvin Frankel Award to three law firms for outstanding pro bono service to asylum seekers and refugees. This week, to mark the American Bar Association’s Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’ll be giving some love to individual lawyers and support professionals working to provide sanctuary to the displaced and persecuted. These legal teams are our clients’ everyday heroes all year long, and for that we honor them with the Pro Bono Star Award.

We’ll introduce you to four pro bono teams in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, who embody the best ideals of our profession and this commemorative week. Time and again they said “yes” when asked to give of their time and talent in the name of people who fled persecution and came to our country looking to reclaim safety and normalcy. For asylum seekers, these legal teams serve as a bulwark between a tumultuous past and a tenable future.

Whether representing a Honduran family targeted by gangs or an Ethiopian man who endured persecution in Eritrea, our pro bono stars’ zealous advocacy means asylum seekers stand a significantly better of chance of securing protection in the United States. Without a lawyer, these asylum seekers, already overwhelmed by their past and an uncertain future, are left to chase hope unguided.

Such a notion runs counter to the values of a country founded by people fleeing their persecution. And our country, not to mention our profession, has long embraced principles of fairness and due process. Saying “yes” to the marginalized and the persecuted, to be sure, is in our national DNA.

So we celebrate our Pro Bono Star awardees and all those whose pro bono service makes abstract concepts of justice real. We are grateful for our partners willing to represent those fleeing refugee crises overseas, those unable to breathe freely when violence arrives on their doorsteps, and those discriminated simply for being something others are not.

Without these pro bono stalwarts, such as you, we would be forced to say “no” to many who seek only the most basic of human rights: the right to life, liberty, and security. To all those who say “yes,” thank you.

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Published on October 24, 2016

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