MLF Lawyer Volunteers at Green Card Clinic for Refugees22 Aug 2012
Hundreds of refugees settle in Maryland each year, starting new lives here after fleeing wars, persecution, and natural disasters in their homelands. As part of the resettlement process, refugees are allowed to apply for permanent residency – generally referred to as the “green card” – after one year. The green card process can be especially cumbersome and difficult for refugees who are still adapting to a new language and unfamiliar culture.
Fortunately, there are volunteers like Pam Genise, a Murthy Law Firm supervising attorney, to guide refugees through this bureaucratic labyrinth. Pam is among a small, dedicated group of attorneys who generously give their time, providing pro bono legal advice to Baltimore’s refugee community. Two or three times a year, Pam volunteers at Green Card Clinics, sponsored by a coalition of local immigrant advocacy groups, using her legal expertise to help refugees secure their foothold in the United States. The latest clinic was held at the University of Baltimore on August 11th and, as usual, Pam was there.
Pam has been helping with these clinics for the past three years, and says she loves to be part of the crucial services they provide. What makes these services so important? Pam explains:
“Permanent residency is essential for a refugee’s continued legal status, eligibility for benefits, continued work authorization, and ability to get certain forms of identification. Many refugees are unable to afford legal services, so this project seeks to help the most vulnerable subset of the refugee population: the elderly, disabled, victims of domestic violence, and families facing economic hardship.”
The Green Card Clinics started in 2005 as collaboration among the Maryland Office of Refugees and Asylees, the International Rescue Committee, the University of Maryland Immigration Law Clinic, and attorneys and students at the University of Baltimore. The clinics give immigration attorneys a chance to give back to their community, putting their talents to work for the public good. The work may be unpaid, but for the volunteers, it is deeply satisfying and personally fulfilling, as Pam makes clear:
“One of my favorite things about helping with the clinics is the families. The kids talk about school and their friends and their favorite activities. Some of these kids have come from war-torn countries and may have lost relatives and friends in horrific situations. They’ve only been here in the U.S. for a year, but it’s already made a huge difference in their lives. It’s a reminder of the hope that our country represents for so many people.”
We are proud of our attorneys and staff for taking time to share their talents for the betterment of others – especially the new Americans who contribute so much to the richness and diversity of our common life.
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