New York Associates Honored For Pro Bono Immigration Work

Working in conjunction with a local nonprofit, Latham associates help victims of violence achieve safety and legal immigration status.

September 28, 2012

Aviania Iliadis and Annemarie Reilly are among five New York-based Latham associates who have been selected to receive the Sanctuary for Families Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Activity.  This honor will be the icing on the cake for Iliadis and Reilly who say helping their clients is an award in and of itself.

Iliadis and Reilly coordinate the New York office’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) initiative in partnership with Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit that provides assistance to domestic violence and sex trafficking victims. The VAWA initiative works with Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project to assist victims in formalizing their immigration statuses via remedies available under VAWA. Over the years, Latham’s New York office has represented more than 200 clients under this initiative.

Tangible Results are Gratifying

 Undocumented victims of domestic abuse who are dependent on their partner for legal immigration status are in a particularly vulnerable situation. “Achieving independent residency is important in helping domestic violence victims obtain freedom from their abusers,” said Iliadis. “It helps them get back on their feet and takes one aspect of control away from the abuser.” 

“The clients are super grateful for everything we do,” said Iliadis.  “It is really satisfying to be able to see a case from start to finish and actually be able to provide them with a tangible benefit.”

Reilly recalls a case where her client was able to open a nail salon after receiving her green card. “It’s actually doing really well,” Reilly said. “I’ve been up there before to check it out and it was just a great experience to see what our clients can do once they are able to work legally.”

Iliadis found similar satisfaction when she worked with a client to secure a nonimmigrant visa and then to bring her children from Ecuador to America. ”I don’t think she had seen them for about ten years, so finally being able to bring them here was one of the best things I’ve been involved in.”

An Opportunity to Gain Practical Skills

Working on pro bono VAWA cases also gives Iliadis, Reilly and the team of associates they oversee the opportunity to gain client-facing experience early in their careers. “As a junior associate it is one of the only ways that you can get one-on-one face time with a client,” said Reilly. “It’s a really eye opening experience when somebody comes in and they don’t know the difference between a first year and an eighth year associate, and they just look to you and have complete faith and trust that you will help them.”

Helping Those in Need

The main focus, however, is on helping those in need. “It’s important for us to give back to the community and help people who don’t have the resources of commercial clients,” said Iliadis. “There is just nothing like going to that green card interview and, when your client gets approved, getting to tell them that the green card is in mail or that it has showed up at the office,” added Reilly. “It’s just a great feeling.”

Iliadis and Reilly will join fellow associates Mark Covey, Aviva F. Robin and Douglas A. Shaw in receiving their awards at Sanctuary’s annual “Above & Beyond” benefit on October 29, 2012.

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