Attorneys Recognized for Pro Bono Legal Service for Somali 92

A team of firm attorneys received the 2019 Human Rights Volunteer Award for their pro bono service as part of the “Somali 92 team” at The Advocates for Human Rights Awards Dinner, an annual event honoring significant contributions to the human rights and to The Advocates’ work.

The team, led by Dan Supalla, included attorneys Emily Collins, Kirsten Pagel and Joey Balthazor, who represented three Somali men who sought to reopen their immigration cases and request asylum and other relief after the U.S. after Immigration and Customs Enforcement attempted to remove them in December 2017.

The “Somali 92” are a group of 92 Somali-born men and women, many of whom fled civil war in Somalia in the 1990s. ICE chartered a flight from Louisiana to Somalia on December 7, 2017, but the flight was held in Dakar, Senegal for 23 hours before returning to the United States. Upon their return, the Somali 92 were detained by ICE in Florida.

A partnership of attorneys, law students, and many other volunteers from the University of Miami School of Law, Americans for Immigrant Justice, U of Minnesota Law School, Legal Aid, and The Advocates for Human Rights filed a class action lawsuit and won the right for each person to pursue reopening of their immigration cases.

Supalla and Collins prepared and prevailed on motions to reopen for all three of the firm’s clients, and the cases were set for individual merits hearings. The team tried these cases before the immigration court in November 2018 and February 2019. At one individual hearing, after hearing the client’s testimony, the immigration judge granted the client’s petition from the bench, allowing him to remain in the United States and care for his family. Two other cases are on appeal to the BIA.

Regardless of the outcome, it is critical that each client had his day in court, represented by counsel, so their claims could be presented and fairly decided by the court system.

The Somali 92 also received the 2019 Arthur C. Helton Memorial Human Rights Award at the AILA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

About The Advocates for Human Rights
At the forefront of the world’s human rights movement, The Advocates for Human Rights, a 501(c)(3) organization, creates and maintains lasting, comprehensive, and holistic change on a local, national, and global scale. Volunteers, partners, supporters, board members, and staff implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law.

An independent, nonpartisan non-profit organization founded in 1983, The Advocates relies on support from a powerhouse of partners and volunteers. Our volunteers want to make a difference, and their work at The Advocates is significant to each of them. Our volunteers motivate us to continue to strive—and we do the same for them.

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