Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good Work - NWIRP, Advocate Resource Center


The Northwest Immigrant Justice Project (NWIRP) held its annual Gala and Auction on Saturday evening. It's good to catch up with friends, colleagues, and former students and to hear about the work of this important organization.

Each year NWIRP serves more than 10,000 low-income immigrants and other community members through direct legal services, brief service, intakes and referrals, and community education. Last year, NWIRP staff and volunteers served more than 4,000 people detained at the Northwest Detention Center by giving "Know Your Rights" presentations and in-depth screenings.

Here are some immigration stats, drawn from the event program (crediting the 2000 census and the Pew Hispanic Center):

  • Washington was the fifth-largest refugee-resettlement state in the country in 2000
  • The foreign-born population of Washington increased by 29.2 percent between 2000 and 2006.
  • In 2006, Washington's foreign-born population was the 10th highest in the U.S.
  • In 2006, 12.4 percent of Washington's population was foreign born. (The numbers were 10.6% in 2000 and 6.5% in 1990.)
  • 32.5% of Washington's foreign-born residents moved here during the 1990s; 26.8% came in 2000 or later.
  • 19% of Washington's foreign born live in poverty in 2000.
  • About 200,000 to 250,000 undocumented people were living in Washington in 2005.
This year's awards:

Jana Heyd, of Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons, received the Golden Door Award for her work on behalf of immigrant children.
In 2001, [Society of Counsel] helped start another innovative program to address the unmet legal needs of indigent non-U.S. citizen children who are victims of abandonment, abuse and/or neglect. Society of Counsel partnered with the Seattle University School of Law’s Access to Justice Institute, Team Child, and the Washington Defender Association to form the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project. The Project’s goal is to provide eligible children with the legal representation and advocacy necessary to obtain lawful immigration status. In May, 2002, after getting this program up and running, the original partner organizations stepped aside and the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project took over the program.
Quoted from Society of Counsel page. In her thank you remarks, Ms. Heyd introduced several of her young clients who were at the dinner -- one or two are still in high school and the rest are now in college. Cool.

Williams Kastner received the Amicus Award.
Williams Kastner has demonstrated its commitment to defending the rights of low-income immigrants in Washington State through a unique and effective approach to pro bono immigrants in Washington State through a unique and effective approach to pro bono assistance. In 2006, with the help of Dana Ferestein, Williams Kastner consolidated its pro bono efforts and chose to focus on asylum cases, enabling a deeper institutional knowledge of asylum law to be developed within the law firm. Thsi approach has greatly benefited individual clients and has also allowed the firm to take a steady flow of pro bono asylum cases over the course of the last two years. Over the last two years, Williams Kastner has successfully secured asylum for individuals from Gambia, Azerbaijan, and Haiti, and has several current matters pending for individuals from Eritrea.
Quoted from NWIRP program. The Microsoft law department also has a special pro bono project focusing on asylum cases. I wonder if other firms are also developing pro bono specialties -- death penalty, family law, landlord-tenant, ...?

Michele and Jack Storms were given special recognition for their support of NWIRP, through Jack's photography and graphic design (assisted by Michele) and Michele's work on the gala dinner committee.

Advocate Resource Center

The Advocate Resource Center supports "legal services and pro bono advocates representing low-income people in Washington state." Attorneys and others can register to have access. Even without registering, you can use:
  • The Pro Bono Resource Guide - a database for finding organizations and projects that need volunteers. You can search by county, subject area, and type of client. Clicking around on the site, I actually found two pro bono guides. The other one is in the Civil Law section of the site and seems to have more search options. In this one you can search by "Projects for" -- i.e., projects for law students, lawyers, mentors, paralegals, senior lawyers, or people wanting "nonlitigation projects." (There's no category for photographers and graphic designers but, as Jack and Michele Storms's work illustrates, public interest groups need people with all sorts of skills.)
  • The list of Washington Public Interest Jobs on the front page.

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