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MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight

Cynthia A. Aziz

 

 

Cynthia A. Aziz has worked with the Washington, DC based group Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC) for many years to assist immigrants in complex immigration litigation or challenging family reunification situations. CLINIC was established in 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to support a rapidly growing network of community-based immigration programs. The network employs roughly 1,200 attorneys and paralegals who, in turn, serve 600,000 low-income immigrants each year.  Maria Odom, CLINIC executive director said "[Cynthia's] experience and commitment to providing the very best representation to immigrants in need has served as inspiration to many immigration attorneys, including myself, throughout the years."

 

MCB VLP:  Current Employer / number of years with current employer?

CA:  21 years as principal and founder of Aziz Law Firm -- Immigration Specialists

 

MCB VLP:  Area of Practice / Expertise? 

CA:  US Immigration and Nationality Law

 

MCB VLP:  Law School / Law School Graduation Year?

CA:  Mount Holyoke College for BA and New England School of Law for J.D.

 

MCB VLP:  How did you discover Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC)

CA:  I have been familiar with CLINIC for many years as a resource in my practice through their national educational seminars and outstanding humanitarian work.  I have been serving as a volunteer attorney in connection with  CLINIC's National Pro Bono Project for Children since 2009This project is designed to provide pro bono representation to unaccompanied non-citizen children before the Immigration Court and the Department of Homeland Security.

 

MCB VLP:  What is a typical case / issue like?

CA:  There is no "typical" case.  The fact patterns too often read like episodes from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.  My youngest currrent client was barely one year when he arrived in the U.S. with his then pregnant 17 year old aunt.  His mother had been killed by my client's grandfather in Honduras.  With the help of an attorney in Brunswick County, Kim Smithwick, this now three year old is subject of a Custody Order which will permit this child to pursue special immigrant juvenile status.

 

MCB VLP:  How many of these types of pro bono cases do you typically handle at one time?

CA:  I am currently the lead attorney on three unaccompanied minor cases through CLINIC in addition to several other pro bono matters our firm is handling.  Other current pro bono cases have come to me through Cabarrus County's DSS (minor US citizen born outside the US who is currently in foster care), our local immigration court (mentally impaired Iraqi refugee) and our local volunteer attorney immigration court project (Mexican teenager who fears gang retribution in his home country).  I have successfully solicited the assistance of several wonderful colleagues in the MCB to assist me in handling a couple of these cases.  This team approach has made it feasible to take on more cases than I otherwise might.

 

MCB VLP:  How do you prepare for handling them?

CA:  When I am assigned cases from CLINIC, I receive detailed reports that contain case summaries including factual and procedural information. In addition, I can contact a staff attorney at CLINIC with questions, seek guidance and support. There is an abundance of information available through CLINIC's website, as well as, special webinars, on immigrant children related issues.

 

MCB VLP:  Did you participate in any particular training so that you could handle these cases? 

CA:  As a seasoned immigration practitioner for more than 23 years, I have handled similar issues for other clients.  However, the unique legal issues related to unaccompanied minors continue to evolve and there are special rules and exceptions distinct from generally rigid immigration procedural requirements.  Therefore, it is important for even the most seasoned immigration practitioner to access the materials and mentoring resources available through CLINIC and local practitioners in related disciplines involving children's issues.

 

MCB VLP:  What is your hope for the future with regard to these cases / issue? 

CA:  My hope is that our legal community can find within its members some advocates for these children.  Not all will be entitled to a legal remedy that will permit the children to remain in the US, but the goal is to find free legal help for these children so they are guaranteed a fair day in court.  These children are truly among the most vulnerable newcomers to our country and region.

 

MCB VLP:  How can the Mecklenburg County legal community help with similar cases?  

CA:  If you are interested in representing an unaccompanied child in our local Charlotte Immigration Court, please contact the National Pro Bono Immigrant Children's Project by going to their site at http://cliniclegal.org/pro-bono-kids-volunteer-form-attorneys.

The projects coordinators will match you to a child who has a case before the Charlotte Immigration Court.

 

 


 

 

 
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