Immigration Leader Grant Sovern Writes Wisconsin Law Journal Article About Afghan Pro Bono Project
Quarles partner Grant Sovern wrote an article for the Wisconsin Law Journal about the significant effort undertaken by the Wisconsin legal community to provide pro bono legal assistance to Afghan refugees brought to Wisconsin after the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Sovern, the firm’s Madison-based national chair of the Immigration team, jumped in to help several legal aid and immigration support organizations put together a plan to handle the anticipated high demand for pro bono support. Ultimately, more than 160 lawyers – including 50 Quarles attorneys – volunteered to help Wisconsin’s Afghan refugees. In addition, many other legal and business professionals at Quarles and elsewhere in the industry stepped forward to help.
In the article, Sovern shares insight on how the program came together, the impact it had and what still needs to be done.
With the deck stacked against us, we decided to try an effort implemented in some large cities around the country, where attorneys who do not normally practice immigration law are recruited, trained and supported by those who do. We put out a call to sole practitioners and small rural firms through a Wisconsin State Bar pro bono office email blast, and to big-firm lawyers through their existing pro bono programs.
For the past several months lawyers who have never worked on an immigration case – or maybe even taken a pro bono case – have been meeting with their new clients and discovering the hurdles asylum applicants face. To say there are not many competent Pashto and Dari speakers in Wisconsin is an understatement, which made finding evidence of the client’s previous life and likely persecution by the Taliban extremely difficult. This kind of initiative takes courage – courage to not only navigate the complex immigration system for the first time, but also taking on the type of work that means everything to the client.