Legal heavyweights in Connecticut are combining their talents and networking prowess to launch a new fundraising campaign aimed at improving support services for attorneys representing low-income immigrant children and families.
In the past few months, there has been an explosion in the need for services to immigrant families, according to retired Judge Robert Holzberg, a partner at Pullman & Comley who co-chairs the Connecticut Lawyers for Immigration Justice campaign. Holzberg announced he was launching the campaign Wednesday with co-chairwoman and former Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase Rogers, now a partner at Day Pitney.
Holzberg said the directors of Connecticut’s legal aid organizations have identified three areas of need. “The need we are trying to satisfy first is staffing,” he said, noting that interpreters are in particular demand. “There’s also a need for expertise, which I didn’t realize until I began talking with directors. A lot of immigration work requires expert testimony. The third need has to do with technology. Large law firms are used to sophisticated conferencing equipment, and that’s going to be hugely helpful when clients are out of state.”
Connecticut’s three full-service nonprofit legal aid organizations—Connecticut Legal Services, the New Haven Legal Assistance Association and Greater Hartford Legal Aid—will be the beneficiaries of what Holzberg called “a targeted approach” with an open-ended fundraising goal. He is encouraging firms and attorneys to contribute at “whatever level they feel comfortable. I know the executive directors of these organizations are very grateful for whatever funds they can raise. We’re confident that this is going to be a significant fundraising effort.”
One hundred percent of the funds raised will go to the three organizations.
In a statement, Rogers said she is thankful to receive early support from members of the Connecticut bar who have already begun making pledges. “Everyone who seeks asylum in this country should have their status adjudicated with due process protections, including the assistance of counsel,” she said.
New York’s Vera Institute of Justice has found that immigrants with representation can be more than 10 times more likely to receive relief and remain in the United States following their hearings. However, most detained immigrants facing deportation do not have lawyers. Connecticut provides no direct government support earmarked for legal services for immigrants. “Lawyers can make all the difference for families in immigration cases,” Holzberg said.
Deborah Witkin, executive director of Connecticut Legal Services, said the Connecticut Lawyers for Immigration Justice campaign reflects Connecticut’s values of fairness, freedom and family. We’re proud to join with the dedicated members of the bar, and with our close allies in the legal services community, in this critically important effort.”
Alexis Smith, executive director of the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, added that she hopes Connecticut will eventually provide direct state support for immigrant legal services. “Until then, we are grateful for the strong support of the bar and of other friends of justice across the state.”
While the plight of immigrants in the United States has been a political issue, Holzberg said the approach to providing assistance is “an apolitical, ecumenical, nonpartisan effort. It’s really all about the right to counsel and the ability of those who are caught up in the immigration system to have due process.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit the campaign website: www.ctjustice.org.