November 15, 2023

Willkie attorneys recently secured several pro bono immigration victories for refugees and asylum seekers from across the globe, including grants of permanent resident status and work authorizations that enable them to start new lives in the U.S.


In August, Willkie attorneys successfully obtained Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for clients Mr. R., Ms. A., and Ms. C., asylum seekers from Honduras and Guatemala.

Through a partnership with American Immigration Counsel’s Immigration Justice Center (IJC), Willkie prepared I-765 applications for work authorization and assisted the clients in becoming Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project (ASAP) members, to expedite the approval process. All three clients received their EADs within a month of filing and are now able to obtain legal U.S. employment.

The Willkie team included pro bono counsel Stacey Kushlefsky, associates Sophie Gallaher and Chetan Tripathy and law clerk Benjamin Cuevas.


In September, a Willkie team helped secure permanent resident status for El Salvador refugee Monica R. At age 15 in 2015, after being threatened by the MS13 gang, Monica and her relatives fled El Salvador.

She was referred by Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) to Willkie, and our attorneys helped her apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, granted in 2018. Willkie then worked for five years to secure Monica’s green card, obtaining termination of the removal proceedings instituted against Monica in federal immigration court, and making appeals to Office of the Ombudsman, to secure permanent residency.

The Willkie team consisted of partners Amelia Cottrell and Richard Mancino and Willkie pro bono immigration attorney Sarah Geiger, with support and mentoring from KIND’s New York office.


In October, a Willkie team helped Afghanistan refugees Mr. M and his family obtain asylum, successfully arguing that the M Family was at risk of persecution if forced to return. 

Mr. M previously worked for a U.S. Embassy-funded initiative that runs English language and computer learning centers with public universities around Afghanistan. When Kabul fell, the U.S. military evacuated the M family. 

The Willkie team consisted of partners Richard Mancino and Allie Strauss and associate Anthony Scarcella, who represented the M Family at their United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum interview.  Mr. M was referred to Willkie through Human Rights First’s  Project: Afghan Legal Assistance.


In October, Willkie helped pro bono client and former Afghan soldier, Mr. S, obtain asylum. The team represented Mr. S at his USCIS asylum interview arguing that he was at risk of persecution, including potential torture, if forced to return.

Prior to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Mr. S was a soldier serving with the Afghan Ministry of Defense’s Special Mission Wing 777, conducting missions in tandem with U.S. Special Forces. Mr. S was evacuated to the U.S. in October 2021 as part of Operation Allies Welcome, a program directed by the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to assisting vulnerable Afghan nationals resettling in the United States.

The Willkie team consisted of partners Sara Tonnies Horton and Shaimaa Hussein, associates Leighton Schnedler and Nicholas Chanin, and visiting foreign law clerk Cristobal Gari.


In November, Willkie represented a Malian immigrant and domestic abuse victim in successfully obtaining a U.S. work permit.

Ms. K first came to the U.S. as a member of the Mali national ballet company. After marrying a U.S. citizen who began abusing her physically and mentally, she divorced and obtained a protective order against him.

Referred by Legal Services NYC to Willkie, our team applied for a U visa and work authorization for Ms. K in 2019.  The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 allows for the issuance of U nonimmigrant status (a U Visa) to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse, but the limited availability of them has created a backlog, and U visa applications can take years before they are decided. After years of reaching out to USCIS, Willkie’s efforts were successful and in November 2023, Ms. K obtained an EAD and a determination that her U visa petition was bona fide.

The Willkie team consisted of partner Wesley Powell, pro bono counsel Stacey Kushlefsky and pro bono immigration attorney Sarah Geiger.