Although some in-house lawyers gravitate toward discrete, time-limited pro bono opportunities, there are long-term engagements that in-house counsel have engaged in with great success. Immigration is one area, for instance, in which in-house attorneys have effectively provided longer term pro bono services. Attorneys at Freddie Mac**have been working on immigration cases as part of their pro bono program for three and a half years. Freddie Mac exemplifies a legal department that has successfully sustained its long-term representation of immigrant detainees. With the current climate of heightened interest in immigration issues, and the critical need for lawyers to assist detained families, we invited Bob Lawrence, Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac, to share his legal department’s experience representing more than a dozen detained clients seeking immigration relief.
Since 2014, lawyers and non-lawyers in Freddie Mac’s Legal Division have successfully represented detained immigrants in thirteen removal cases before the U.S. Immigration Court. These cases were referred to Freddie Mac by the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (“CAIR”) Coalition, the only local non-profit that serves the detained immigrant population in the D.C. metropolitan area. CAIR Coalition made a presentation at Freddie Mac in 2014, which started the relationship. Among other things, CAIR Coalition familiarizes immigrants with their legal rights and the Immigration Court process, represents indigent immigrants in court, and engages in advocacy work for the cause of detained immigrants. Each year, CAIR Coalition also provides much-needed legal services to over 500 detained immigrant children in Virginia and Maryland. To serve so many clients, CAIR partners with pro bono attorneys who take on cases under the guidance of a CAIR mentor.
Freddie Mac volunteers have handled nine cases on their own, proving that in-house legal departments can in fact provide immigrants with pro bono representation in removal cases. The Freddie Mac teams usually consist of two lead lawyers with two or three support personnel. In addition, other lawyers and support staff members conduct “spot” assignments, such as tracking down country condition reports or preparing FOIA requests. An employee fluent in Spanish is also a must for cases involving Spanish-speaking clients.
In all 10 cases that Freddie Mac has seen through trial, the immigration court granted our clients asylum or other relief from removal, which gave these individuals legal status to live and work in the United States. In two other removal cases, Freddie Mac lawyers convinced the immigration court to dismiss the case on legal grounds before trial and successfully represented an immigrant in a bond hearing. Currently, we are representing a 15-year-old boy from El Salvador who is seeking a special immigrant juvenile visa, which would allow the boy to reunite with his mother in the U.S.
Freddie Mac’s successful outcomes have helped detained immigrants from several countries attain safety and a path to citizenship in the United States. For example, in one of our cases, the immigration court granted asylum to a 19-year-old green card holder who had fled Eritrea with his father when he was 13, finding that the Eritrean government would have tortured or killed him because of his father’s prior political activity. In another case, the court granted asylum to a Honduran taxi driver who had been extorted and kidnapped by gangs for over 16 years before fleeing with his wife and nine-year-old daughter.
We also successfully represented a Ghanian man who suffered from schizophrenia and faced persecution if deported to his home country. In addition, we worked with a gay man from El Salvador who was granted asylum because gangs would have tortured or killed him on account of his sexual orientation had he been returned to El Salvador. In this matter, the court granted derivative asylum to our client’s son.
We are proud of our partnership with CAIR Coalition and our work on behalf of detained immigrants. It is but one of several Freddie Mac pro bono and community service partnerships – others include Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV), Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Whitman Walker Health, Tahirih Justice Center, Operation Renewed Hope Foundation (ORHF), Children’s Law Center, and Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) – ensuring that all Freddie Mac attorneys can find a pro bono opportunity that is a good match for their interests and preferred time commitment.
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
Special thanks to Bob Lawrence for his contribution to this post.