Today, the Law School’s Asylum and Convention Against Torture Clinic received a 2021 Pro Bono Appreciation Award from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, the largest organization providing free legal and social services to detained immigrant adults and unaccompanied children in Arizona. The clinic, one of six pro bono awardees, was honored with the Adult Program Special Partnership Award for its “holistic, comprehensive advocacy” for individual clients and for continuing its “decades-long tradition of training students who will become zealous advocates for justice.”
According to the Florence Project, the Cornell Asylum and Convention Against Torture Clinic is emblematic of the important role that law school clinics play, not only in advocating for individual clients, but in training students who will enter the legal field as fierce advocates for justice. In the last two years, Cornell Law students in the clinic provided an emotional and legal lifeline to their client, Dr. Merlys Rodriguez Hernandez, a Cuban asylum-seeker who became gravely ill with COVID-19 while in ICE detention. Advocating far beyond their legal representation, they elevated her story and her voice through the media, human rights groups, and medical journals. With the clinic’s support, Hernandez became a vocal advocate for the rights and safety of those detained by ICE during COVID-19. Read the full story here. The clinic also litigated a second appeal for a transgender woman who was unjustly denied asylum. Their brief persuaded the Board of Immigration Appeals to reverse and grant asylum out right to their client, Paty.
“The themes that unite our advocates and allies are community collaboration and client empowerment,” read a statement released by Roxana Avila-Cimpeanu and Katharine Ruhl, pro bono managing attorneys of the Florence Project’s Children’s and Adult Programs. “For as challenging as recent years have been, we continue to be impressed by the thoughtful, inspiring support our pro bono partners provide.”
The Florence Project created a digital booklet to share the experiences of the pro bono attorneys, translators, experts, and volunteers who received the pro bono awards. The booklet includes short video reflections from the two Law School faculty members who direct the clinic and six Law School students who worked in the clinic in recent years.
The Florence Project provides and coordinates free legal services and related social services to the 3,000 men, women, and unaccompanied children detained on any given day in Arizona for immigration removal proceedings. In addition to 170 full-time staff, the Florence Project works with a robust network of pro bono attorneys and volunteers from all corners of the United States.