Ayuda, a nonprofit organization assisting low-income immigrants, honored McGuireWoods with its 2023 Pro Bono Impact Award. Richmond partners and Ayuda volunteers Jeff Hanna and John Maddock accepted the award and gave remarks on behalf of the firm at Ayuda’s “50th Anniversary Event: Standing With Immigrants,” held May 4, 2023, at Planet Word Museum in Washington, D.C.
McGuireWoods’ pro bono partnership with Ayuda began in 2021 when the organization reached out to the firm for help with special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) cases in Richmond. Washington, D.C.-based Ayuda had partnered with Central Virginia’s Commonwealth Catholic Charities to house unaccompanied, undocumented minors. By law, such cases must be handled in local courts, so Ayuda needed Virginia pro bono lawyers to help obtain judicial relief before Ayuda seeks federal recognition and benefits for the minors.
More than 15 McGuireWoods lawyers, led by Richmond partner and office pro bono co-leader Ryan Frei, stepped up to help. They attended three training sessions led by Ayuda, and firm volunteers have taken on numerous cases since then. In 2022, McGuireWoods lawyers logged nearly 200 hours providing pro bono assistance to Ayuda’s young clients seeking SIJS relief.
Primarily, firm lawyers assist with the first step in SIJS cases: obtaining predicate orders. To be eligible for SIJS, McGuireWoods lawyers petition state courts to find that the unaccompanied minor is abandoned, neglected or abused by one or both parents under Virginia law. The firm recently obtained this necessary relief for children from Honduras and have additional petitions pending filing or consideration.
In addition to Jeff, John and Ryan, McGuireWoods lawyers attending the awards ceremony included D.C. associates Ayana Brown, Sydney Menack, Kaiwon Tresvant, Clare Reardon, and Tolu Olaniyan, and Richmond associate Noriya Shahadat.