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From Issue Spot: Advocacy Skills In Action

Monday, February 04, 2013

Thank you to our members who took the time out of their busy schedules to gather at the State House for yesterday’s 14th annual Walk to the Hill.  BBA members were among the 650 attorneys who put their advocacy skills into action in support of civil legal aid.  Walk to the Hill 2013 was a great success, but our work to ensure adequate funding of civil legal aid is only just beginning.

A real life example of how civil legal aid helps people was described by South Coastal Counties Legal Services client, Daniele Bien-Aime.  Through no fault of her own, this mother of two young children lost her job, and then her health insurance and came close to being evicted from her apartment — while undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and follow-up treatment for breast cancer. A legal aid attorney helped her get her job back, continue her treatment and stay in her home.

A surprise visit from Governor Patrick provided an opportunity for us to thank him for recognizing the importance of civil legal aid.  Last week, House 1 proposed $15.5 million for Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).

Gov and BBA Banner

The most important part of the morning followed the pep talks from Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, BBA President James D. Smeallie and others, when attendees headed toward the offices of their lawmakers to continue the conversation about the need for civil legal aid funding.  As we described in Issue Spot before, making a personal connection and building a relationship with your own state senator and state representative is key to effective advocacy.

Ellen Kief, a member of the BBA’s Solo & Small Firm Section and a resident of Weston, met with her legislators, Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch. She shared her perspective on civil legal aid as a constituent and an attorney. In particular, Ellen emphasized her experience with immigration law and the positive impact that civil legal aid has had on her own clients.

Ellen Kief with Rep. Peisch

Meeting with a key staffer is just as important.  As Issue Spot has said in earlier posts, staff often makes recommendations and it’s a great way to get to know what’s important to your legislator.  BBA President J.D. Smeallie sat down with an aide to his state representative, Jerald Parisella. This was an opportunity for President Smeallie to make a direct connection with the person who advises the lawmaker.

JD and House aide 2

It was great to see advocacy in action as lawyers filled the State House halls.  These conversations will continue throughout the budget process that will run through the end of June.  We need to cultivate these relationships and circle back to our legislators between now and June in order to provide them with additional information and facts, tell stories and keep the dialogue and discussions going.  We need to arm them with the reasons why civil legal aid is important and should be one of their top budget priorities.

- Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association

Immigration Committees

  • Asylum Committee
    This committee focuses on focuses on humanitarian forms of relief, such as asylum, withholding of removal, relief under the Convention against Torture, TPS, VAWA, U and T visas, humanitarian parole.

    Contact Information

    Ani E. Ajemian

    Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

    (617) 348-1882

    Amanda Ekey

    Joyce & Associates, P.C.

    (617) 523-1500

  • Business Committee
    Examine issues relating to employer representation & compliance, labor certification (PERM), immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions (H-1B, L, TN etc.), and adjustment of status.
  • Family Committee
    This committee focuses on forms of relief that arise when a noncitizen is in removal proceedings; detention issues (Know Your Rights, release under bond, orders of supervision, credible fear interviews); and immigration consequences of crimes and post-conviction relief.

    Contact Information

    Melissa Bordeaux

    Law Office of Adrienne J. Vaughan, LLC

  • Immigration Public Service Committee
    This committee offers resources to assist BBA members to locate immigration-related pro bono opportunities in the Boston area and supports the efforts of local immigration legal services. Some of the projects we support include: asylum, KYRs to the detained population, VAWA, U and T visas, status for unaccompanied minors, TPS, and citizenship.

    Contact Information

    Veronica Serrato

    Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative

    (617) 428-3775

  • Removal Defense Committee
    This committee focuses on forms of relief that arise when a noncitizen is in removal proceedings; detention issues (Know Your Rights, release under bond, orders of supervision, credible fear interviews); and immigration consequences of crimes and post-conviction relief.

    Contact Information

    Jessica Chicco

    Boston College Law School

    Emma C. Winger

    Committee for Public Counsel Services - Malden

    (781) 338-0825

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.