Several months ago, I began my tenure as the pro bono director of CABA Pro Bono Legal Services. Before then, I had experienced the profound chasm between our community’s needs and access to justice when I worked with self- represented litigants in Family Court and as a volunteer at Miami- Dade County’s Law Library.
My main duty is straightforward: to recruit and mentor volunteer attorneys to provide free legal services to a greater number of children, individuals and families in need. In support of this, I regularly recite the benefits of pro bono service with CABA Pro Bono Legal Services, including the opportunity to gain experience while helping vulnerable members of our community, meet other practitioners and judges, be recognized in social media, and obtain CLE credits. I also invoke Florida’s aspirational Rule 4-6.1(a) regarding pro bono public service, which provides that all Florida lawyers should provide pro bono legal services to the poor.
Shortly after I was hired, a death in my family caused me to represent a family member on a pro bono basis unexpectedly. My client was a petitioner for Humanitarian Parole, and his sister in Cuba was the beneficiary. The purpose of the petition was to bring my client’s sister to the U.S. to address issues related to the death of her mother. My client, his sister, and I had only just learned that their parent, a U.S. Citizen, had unexpectedly died due to complications resulting from a car accident.
Humanitarian Parole is an extraordinary measure sparingly used to bring an otherwise inadmissible alien into the United States for a temporary period due to a compelling emergency. Parole is governed by numerous laws and regulations, including Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Sections 402 and 421 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 212.5. As may be gleaned, obtaining Humanitarian Parole can be challenging, yet the facts of my client’s case were compelling and seemingly worthy of an extraordinary measure. I communicated with my client urgently and often, assembling an arsenal of documents to submit in support of the petition for Humanitarian Parole. Ultimately, my client’s petition was granted, and his sister flew from Havana to Miami and back to attend to their deceased parent’s affairs.
My experience deepened my resolve to make legal services accessible to more and more members of our community. Assuaging my client’s
grief vis-a-vis my volunteer legal work resulted in the most personally satisfying professional experience I have had to date, and that is why I am sharing this.
Areas of pro bono practice we work in include immigration law, veterans’ issues, human trafficking, domestic violence, and family law. What CABA Pro Bono Legal Services can offer you is what they provided me when I stepped up to take my relative’s case: skilled staff members who guide you with consistency and empathy. I invite you to consider volunteering with us. If you are interested in serving as a pro bono advocate, please email email@example.com. We invite you to participate at a half-day clinic or one of our other limited, short-term volunteer opportunities, or by taking a case!
-Viviana Mendiola, Esq., Pro Bono Director, CABA Pro Bono