L-R Amir Naim and Monica Modi Khant, Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. John Disney/ALM

The Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network has hired a new staff attorney and traded borrowed space at King & Spalding for its own digs at Peachtree Center.

Demand for the legal nonprofit’s services has spiked amid growing anxiety from the immigrant community over the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

“It’s been wonderful to have someone focused on asylum cases,” said GAIN’s executive director, Monica Modi Khant. She said the new attorney, Amir Naim, is working closely with Atlanta City Detention Center, which holds immigration detainees, many arriving directly from the airport.

The number of asylum cases has increased since January, Khant said, and GAIN is getting four or five new ones per week now.

No laws have changed yet, Khant said, “but the atmosphere has changed.”

These people seek asylum because they “have no other option,” Khant said. “They are already here or on their way here. They are very afraid of going back to their home country.”

She added that the proposed immigration bans affect all immigrants, not just those from the Middle East. “People are feeling pressure to figure out their immigration situation. They’re fearful of what’s happening in the community,” Khant said. “They are seeking a more protected status than just being below the radar.”

Naim, who speaks Spanish and Arabic, joined from Access to Law Foundation, a Norcross nonprofit providing legal services to low-income people, including immigrants. After graduating from Emory University in 2010, he spent a year learning Arabic in Damascus, Syria, on a Center for Arabic Study Abroad fellowship funded by the U.S. Department of Education and then earned a law degree in 2015 from George Washington University.

He replaces Zainab Alwan, who moved to Birmingham at the beginning of the year.

Naim takes some cases and places others with volunteer attorneys from the private bar. Volunteers “have been fired up since January to take cases,” Khant said, adding that GAIN’s longtime law firm supporters, such as King & Spalding, Alston & Bird, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and Eversheds Sutherland, have increased their efforts.

GAIN, originally called the Atlanta Bar Asylum Project, started in 2005 as a joint effort by the Atlanta Bar Association, several large local firms and Catholic Charities Atlanta.

Khant said that, while the number of asylum cases has risen, there has been a drop-off in contacts from immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

“That’s where we’ve seen the hit—a decline in applications since January,” she said. “The anti-immigrant sentiment has driven them further underground. … I worry that it will cause them to stay in their situation for fear of exposing themselves.”

Besides Khant and Naim, GAIN employs another staff attorney, Alpa Amin, who represents the domestic violence and trafficking victims, a paralegal and an office assistant. Bill Hoffman, King & Spalding’s retired pro bono partner, also stays involved.

GAIN moved into its own location at the end of April after a decade at King & Spalding. The group has leased 2,000 square feet at Peachtree Center.

“King & Spalding did a really good job of housing us and taking care of us for 10 years,” Khant said. “It’s the right time to have our own space—it shows that we’re growing.”

BRIEFLY

John MacMaster has joined Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough from Dentons as a partner in the U.S. tax practice. MacMaster practices from the firm’s Atlanta and New York offices.


Clinton Gary has joined Burr & Forman as chief strategy and business development officer from Arnall Golden Gregory, where he was chief marketing officer. In the new role, Gary will lead Burr’s business development and marketing teams across the Birmingham-based firm’s 11-office Southeastern footprint.


Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough associate Elizabeth “Bess” Hinson has relocated to the firm’s Atlanta office from its Columbia, South Carolina, location. Hinson, who is in the privacy and information security practice, joined Nelson Mullins in 2015 from King & Spalding in Atlanta.


Finch McCranie has added two former U.S. Department of Justice lawyers, Renee Brooker and Eva Gunasekera, to its Washington office to assist with whistleblower and business compliance matters. Brooker spent almost two decades in the DOJ’s civil division, overseeing investigations, litigation and trials in fraud cases. Gunasekeraa chaired the DOJ civil division’s health care fraud practice as senior counsel. The two, who join as counsel, will also assist counsel Larry Thompson in his work as Volkswagen’s Independent Corporate Compliance Monitor and Auditor.


The State Bar of Georgia’s Committee to Promote Inclusion in the Profession has given its annual Randolph Thrower Lifetime Achievement Award to Leroy Johnson, who in 1962 was the first African-American elected to the Georgia State Senate since Reconstruction, and A. James Elliott, associate dean of Emory University School of Law and a co-founder of the Georgia Legal Services Program, for their work in fostering a more diverse legal profession.

The bar gave its Commitment to Equality Award to Dawn Jones, the bar’s secretary-elect, and to former Fulton County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Willie Lovett Jr. Lovett, who died Jan. 30, was honored posthumously. Among other leadership roles, Jones is a past president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and a past president of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.


The Athens-Clarke County DUI/Drug Court has been named one of only four national academy courts in the United States, meaning that it will help develop and test national best practices for DWI courts. The National Center for DWI Courts and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chose the Athens court from more than 700 DWI courts, and it will serve a three-year term.

The court was founded in 2001 with the goal of reducing impaired driving among repeat offenders. To date, it has helped more than 800 people, who’ve undergone a minimum 14-month treatment program. “The ultimate goal is to increase the reach of quality treatment court programs so that anyone affected by a substance use disorder has access to one in their local community,” said Judge Charles Auslander, presiding judge of the Athens DUI/Drug Court, in an announcement.