Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pro Bono Lawyers Win Legal Permanent Residence for Mother of Air Force Sergeant

Voice of America featured this story about how pro bono lawyers from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson won legal permanent residence for Zoila, the mother of a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force.

Zoila encountered the Fried Frank lawyers at PS 146, where the firm runs a legal clinic through VOLS' School-based Children's Project.

Although Zoila has lived in the United States for 30 years, raised her children here, and has a son who is serving this country, the U.S. government had twice rejected her applications for legal permanent residence. With the expert guidance of Elizabeta Markuci, VOLS' Immigration Project Director, Fried Frank mounted a third effort using "parole-in-place."  At that time, parole-in-place was an informal discretionary policy used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to protect immediate family members of military personnel from removal on a case-by-case basis – and the only known successful cases were for spouses.

While Zoila's case was pending, DHS issued a policy memorandum, which formalized the policy and clarified that it could be used to protect parents of U.S. military personnel.  This pathway to legal permanent residence was so obscure, however, that the government officer deciding Zoila's case had never heard of it and was poised to deny her application for permanent residence a third time.  The Fried Frank lawyers immediately got the officer a copy of his own agency's internal policy memorandum, and shortly thereafter, she finally won legal permanent residence status.

After thirty years of living with fear and disappointment, Zoila and her family are thrilled.


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