Pro Bono Spotlight

Safe Passage, April 8, 2022

Sarah Allen and Raquel Liberman, both of the law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Lowey LLP,  began working with their client Vanessa (whose name has been changed to protect his privacy) in 2016. Vanessa had just escaped persecution from her home country of El Salvador and arrived in New York, where she reunited with her mother. Here, she was faced with the process of navigating the complex U.S. immigration system. Thanks to Sarah and Raquel’s six years of advocacy, Vanessa finally received her green card this past February. Were it not for the steadfast support from her two pro bono attorneys, Vanessa would likely not have gained the legal protections to which she was entitled.

As a young teenager in El Salvador, Vanessa was held captive by a gang member, who subjected her to months of physical and sexual abuse. She escaped one night when he fell asleep, and she fled El Salvador. After a dangerous journey to the US, she arrived in Texas and was immediately placed in removal proceedings.

Safe Passage Project lawyers met Vanessa in immigration court and promptly matched her with volunteers Sarah and Raquel. Having trained with our team to prepare themselves for this case, they offered their services at no cost and helped Vanessa apply for both Special Juvenile and Immigration Status (SJIS) and asylum.

Vanessa’s applications were processed during a time when the government was attempting to limit eligibility for these forms of humanitarian relief, although it was contrary to the law. Due to these unlawful interpretations of the law, Vanessa’s asylum and SIJS claims were originally denied. Sarah and Raquel stuck with this case for years – filing appeal after appeal, and keeping Vanessa informed throughout the entire process.

Finally, after six years of advocacy and in the midst of constant legal changes, Vanessa became a Lawful Permanent Resident in February 2022. Sarah and Raquel’s efforts demonstrate the tremendous impact that Safe Passage Project’s 563 pro bono attorneys have in helping our 1,234 clients achieve their goals of safety and legal status. Our dedicated volunteer attorneys allow Safe Passage to leverage our relatively small staff to ensure that no child faces the immigration process alone.