For the past year, the United States has seen a significant increase in unaccompanied minors and young families from Mexico and Central America who have crossed the border in an attempt to obtain asylum. Since 2011, the number of these cases has increased more than 900%, more than 60,000 arriving just since last year. The exponential increase in the number of cases, combined with federal policies mandating certain requirements for processing these cases, has created a significant increase in demand for legal representation.
The importance of legal representation is best illustrated by the fact that asylum is granted in nearly half of the cases where there is legal representation. On the other hand, children and young families who appeared in court without legal representation were deported nine out of 10 times. In response to this staggering statistic, Vice President Joe Biden issued an appeal to lawyers across the country asking for an increase in pro bono lawyer services.
Six Stokes Lawrence attorneys volunteered to provide their services pro bono for these very important cases. Working with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Sean Russel, Brendan Monahan, Carolyn Cairns, Sarah Elerson, Andre Penalver and Ellen Jackson received training specifically on these issues so that they can respond to the increase demand and call for assistance.
"It was important for us to participate in this project, especially in Central Washington where a significant portion of the population is impacted by immigration issues," said Shareholder Sean Russel who spearheaded the efforts within the firm. "As attorneys, we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of these children and young families."
Stokes Lawrence attorneys are currently providing representation in three asylum cases.