RILA Staff, Volunteers Receive DOJ Accreditation
RILA’s work on behalf of clients is possible because of our staff and volunteer attorneys and our staff who are “accredited representatives” under a US Department of Justice (DOJ) program. This program allows non-attorneys to represent aliens before the Department of Homeland Security (partial accreditation) or federal immigration courts (full accreditation), with the aim “to increase the availability of competent immigration legal representation for low-income and indigent persons, thereby promoting the effective and efficient administration of justice (source).”
We are pleased to announce that RILA’s CEO, Natalie Foote, recently qualified for full accreditation and staff members Emily Smith and Emily Williams received partial accreditation.
RILA has also initiated a program to fund the training of committed volunteers to become DOJ-accredited. We are grateful for funding from The Falls Church Anglican for this initiative. RILA volunteer Kaitlin Keefe recently applied and was accepted into our pilot program. As she works toward accreditation, Kaitlin is taking an online class and being mentored by our staff. Kaitlin works full-time at a local web development company but has long had a desire to offer spiritual and practical support to immigrants from her days of working in campus ministry. Kaitlin learned of RILA through the DOJ website and began volunteering in 2018. She was drawn to RILA because “I believe that people are made in God's image and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I want to help those who face danger in their country of origin to be able to live and work legally in the United States.” Kaitlin will be assuming responsibility for three client cases this summer and fall.
One of her clients, “Eliana,” is from the same city in South America where Kaitlin once lived. Eliana held an executive position in the opposition party for 16 years. Toward the end of her tenure there, the national government began to demonstrate extreme hostility to the opposition party, and last year representatives of those in power stormed into her office to target her and the other employees. She was hospitalized after this attack, and her teenage son was also attacked at a peaceful protest around the same time. Because she knew her life and her son’s lives were in danger, they made the difficult decision to come to the US to seek safety and begin new lives.
With volunteers like Kaitlin, we can continue to offer families like Eliana’s who do not yet have the means to pay attorney fees a fair chance in our complex immigration system.