Advisory Board Member Spotlight: Kip Kirkpatrick

Our volunteers go above and beyond to assist our clients in their immigration matters. The delightful intersection of Advisory Board Member and volunteer demonstrates a strong connection to GAIN, and is well-exemplified by Kip Kirkpatrick.

Kip Kirkpatrick is a retired partner from Alston & Bird, a member of GAIN’s Advisory Board, and a volunteer attorney. He accepted his first GAIN case in 2014 which involved a young lady from Mexico who was victimized by an abusive spouse. As is the case with many of our clients, Kip’s client faced many cultural, financial, and linguistic barriers that prevented her from being able to navigate the complex immigration legal system and access certain benefits to which she was entitled.  Having been a victim of several years of physical and mental abuse, the client was also traumatized and in need of legal representation that took into account her particular sensitivities. Kip readily accepted these challenges and made every effort to accommodate the client, to explain the nuances of the immigration relief for which they were applying, and most importantly, to treat the client with the compassion and respect she deserved.

Since that time, Kip has accepted two more cases from GAIN, and in doing so, has enlisted the help of other associates at Alston & Bird who equally share in his passion to help those less fortunate while doing so in the most responsible, professional, and culturally appropriate manner. We are delighted to work alongside Kip as he exemplifies the quality, compassion, and commitment that GAIN strives to offer our clients. The work of GAIN is made possible by incredible volunteers and the generous Atlanta pro bono community, and we are grateful to have this extraordinary support.

When recognized at GAIN’s Go Formal for Freedom: Celebrating 10 Years of Service in 2016, Kip offered this meaningful quote:

“There are plenty of reasons to despair these days. Yet, when I see the courage of GAIN’s clients after what they have experienced, and when I see the commitment and professionalism of GAIN’s staff, volunteer lawyers and partners, it renews my sense of hope. We all need a sense of hope, and GAIN can turn despair into hope – not only for GAIN’s clients, but for all of us.”

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Board Member Spotlight – Radha Manthe & Amy McCullough

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Amy McCullough & Radha Manthe, center, with their spouses at GAIN’s Go Formal for Freedom: Celebrating 10 Years of Service

As the two newest members of GAIN’s Board of Directors, Radha Manthe of King & Spalding and Amy McCullough of Polsinelli offer fresh perspectives on how to best govern GAIN and encourage the organization’s growth. Equipped with infectiously can-do attitudes, forward-thinking minds, and remarkable reliability, Radha and Amy have already demonstrated their commitment to GAIN in more ways than one.

Radha and Amy each engaged with GAIN for the first time by volunteering to represent a case. Amy’s involvement with the Victims of Violence Project had been informed by her longstanding interest in the issue of human trafficking. She explains, “Combatting sex trafficking has always been an area of great passion for me.  While working at my previous firm, I learned about GAIN and attended the first GAIN training session I possibly could, which was 3 weeks after my son was born!” The dedication Amy demonstrated so soon after her son’s birth has only intensified, as she has gone on to represent a total of four cases within the Victims of Violence Project.

Radha’s commitment to pro bono work had been long-established before her involvement with GAIN, having offered ample time to a variety of pro bono matters. However, it was a surprise request from Bill Hoffmann, Senior Counsel at GAIN and a former King & Spalding partner, that spurred Radha into action with GAIN. Bill requested the help of King & Spalding associates to represent three affirmative asylum cases, which intrigued Radha. With the minimal nudging of her husband, who rhetorically asked if she could think of any other group of people who could more use help than asylum seekers, Radha jumped headfirst into the adventures of affirmative asylum, and has not looked back since.

When prompted to summarize GAIN’s importance in the Atlanta community, Radha and Amy see two primary opportunities to celebrate: first, the opportunity to serve more immigrant victims and asylum seekers; and second, the opportunity to engage the private legal community in this line of work. As Amy explains, “One of the challenges of being in private practice, particularly in an area where your clients are businesses or companies, is finding ways in which you can use your legal skills to truly impact another person’s life.” In Amy’s view, GAIN provides those opportunities, all the while serving a crucial community.

Furthermore, as Radha points out, that community is in great need of legal assistance: “As an attorney, I find all the paperwork and the details of the USCIS forms to be confusing; I can’t imagine how confusing it would be for a non-lawyer immigrant trying to navigate the process alone.” In recognition of these challenges, GAIN ensures that our attorneys are well-trained and fully prepared to represent our cases. Radha identifies the positive feedback loop this creates, explaining, “The support and training GAIN gives to its volunteers is just great, and that keeps volunteers coming back, which allows GAIN to serve even more clients.” Amy concurs, and adds that “GAIN not only helps the victims it serves but enables members of the community, like me, to take part in its mission and empower victims to reclaim their lives.”

Both Radha and Amy have practical ambitions that aspire for more broad-based awareness of GAIN’s work. In the future, Amy says, “I’d like to see more visibility for GAIN in the community which, hopefully, would result in greater community outreach and support for the victims we serve.” Radha sees growth in similar terms as Amy, emphasizing that “I think GAIN is already well-known and respected within immigration law circles, but I would love to see that same name recognition within the broader legal community.”

Radha and Amy have each offered invaluable insight while serving as Board Members, and have impressed everyone with their respective willingness to step up to the metaphoric plate. GAIN has been honored to work with both Board Members already, and looks forward to the years of their leadership ahead!

What a Win: Sutherland Team Wins Asylum Case

At GAIN, we encounter many difficult cases that post distinct challenges. Complicated immigration histories, imperfect documentation, and dynamic fact patterns all stand to make a case hard to represent. When the amazing team of Sutherland attorneys agreed to represent a detained Haitian man’s application for asylum, we knew the challenge at hand.

GAIN was contacted by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, a U.S.-based organization, about several Haitian individuals who were detained in Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) and were interested in seeking asylum in the United States. Among them was MJB, who was afraid to return to Haiti on the basis of his political opinions and activism. Indeed, MJB was the leader of a political group that advocates for the preservation of human rights, including those of LGBTQ individuals, and the protection of democratic procedure in Haiti. MJB had reason to fear for his life; he was violently targeted for his activity, and a fellow member of his organization had been murdered. This prompted him to flee to the United States, where he was detained.

A team of Sutherland attorneys, comprised James R. McGibbon, of counselJohn Fleming, partner, associates Margaret L. Flatt, Matthew J. BlumenstykDanny Wells, paralegal Jacqueline Marenick and Emory Law student Maritza Badio, agreed to represent MJB’s case. With the expert testimony of Professor Chip Carey of Georgia State University, the team successfully argued the case in front of Atlanta’s Immigration Court. This was no small feat, as detained asylum cases are rarely granted in this jurisdiction. Though challenging, the case was skillfully guided by the amazing team, pulling off an admirable win.

GAIN is incredibly grateful for the Sutherland legal team’s dedication to this case! Their thorough pursuit of justice helped ensure MJB’s release from detention, and opened the doors for a life of freedom from persecution with the protection of asylum.

Intern Spotlight – Katie Clark, Public Relations

KatieMy name is Katie Clark and I am a rising college senior at Kennsaw State University pursuing a degree in public relations and marketing. This summer, I had the privilege of being GAIN’s Public Relations and Marketing intern and I loved every minute of it.

By working with GAIN, my eyes were opened to the importance of the work that this organization is contributing to immigrant victims of violence and asylum seekers here in the United States. Therefore, as GAIN’s public relations and marketing intern, I tried my best to boost this wonderful organization’s image and show others the impact that GAIN is making in others’ lives.

During my time with GAIN, I assisted in planning multiple fundraisers such as the Chai Pani Dining for a Cause, Zumba with GAIN, and the annual Go Formal for Freedom Gala. I also designed a new company brochure, the Chai Pani event flyer, and many new social media graphics. When was not planning future events or designing media graphics, I conducted research on current news issues that are relevant to GAIN to highlight on our social media. When not conducting research, I assisted GAIN in many other ways to help this organization continue to be successful.

Although the summer is over and I have returned to school, I plan to continue doing pro bono public relations and marketing work for GAIN even after my time here is over. I have enjoyed working with the amazing people who make GAIN a well-oiled machine and learning all of the insightful lessons they have taught me.

Board Member Spotlight – Tracie Klinke

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Alpa Amin (Lead Attorney, left) with Board of Directors Co-Chair Tracie Klinke (right)

Do you have a friend in your life who you can rely on for anything? For GAIN, that friend is Tracie Klinke, Co-Chair of our Board of Directors and the owner of Klinke Immigration. Tracie has served on the Board for many years in many capacities; no matter what hat she wears, though, she is a force of thoughtful and positive support for everything that GAIN does.

Even though Tracie is the best-kept secret to GAIN’s success, we feel compelled to share that secret with you.

GAIN: Tracie! Tell us a little about who you are, where you come from, and what you do.

Tracie: I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, which is a far cry from the exotic locations that our clients come from. My family, though, has always had a touch of the international flare to it. I grew-up with a step-dad from Mexico, and when I was 17 I gained a sister from Russia through adoption. In college, I worked in the international student office, which is where I met a boisterous, country-western loving German who is now my husband. Appreciating the challenges that my family members faced – be it cultural, language-based, or legal – has been crucial for preparing me for my career as an immigration lawyer.

I’ve been practicing immigration law for for six years and for the last three years, I’ve had my own practice, Klinke Immigration, in Marietta. I work on family and humanitarian-based cases, very similar to the type of cases that GAIN does on a daily basis. My training through GAIN has been instrumental to how I’ve shaped my practice. I strive to create an environment where clients feel safe, comfortable, and almost as though they are talking with a friend. The office is cozy by design, helping to take the intimidation out of working with an attorney.

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G: How did you get involved with GAIN? 

T: Right after I took the Georgia Bar exam in February 2009, I wanted to learn more about immigration options for immigrant victims of human trafficking. My employer at the time encouraged me to attend a training that GAIN sponsored and I was hooked. I took a case pro bono and it was the firm’s first T visa case. We then quickly took on a U visa case and from there, the firm’s practice in U visas grew tremendously. Although I’m no longer at that particular firm, they still do amazing work with immigrant victims of violence. A large part of my practice continues to be with U visa applicants, as well. Unfortunately, there is plenty of work to go around in this practice area.

G: Why is GAIN important to you? 

T: On a selfish professional note, I found my passion for working with immigrant victims of violence and human trafficking through GAIN. I am so very fortunate to love what I do and to earn a living doing it. So without GAIN, I don’t know if I would be nearly so fulfilled in my professional life.

Without GAIN, though, I wonder who would do all of the work that clearly needs to be done. As an immigration attorney, I see the tremendous need for pro bono assistance in this area. As a private attorney, I cannot offer pro bono services and the non-profits that offer the type of help that GAIN provides are already operating beyond capacity. Having GAIN to refer the neediest of clients to is a true asset. I don’t know what Atlanta would do without them.

G: What is your favorite memory associated with GAIN? 

T: I always like hearing the client testimonial at GAIN events. You may think that since I work in this area on a daily basis that I’d get tired of these stories. The truth, though, is that when I’m working on a case, I think about the situation differently out of necessity. I have to analyze the facts, look for weaknesses, and I can’t simply embrace the client’s story of triumph over darkness and despair. Being partially removed from the GAIN client allows me to listen to the story with a fresh set of ears and to once again appreciate everything that these survivors have, well, survived. It’s a reaffirmation of why I do what I do.

7ycbhl0432G: What would you like to see in GAIN’s future?

T: GAIN has done so much with so little and I’m so proud of everything that Monica and Alpa have accomplished over the years. By adding Madeline this past year, we’ve seen how much more can be done when the right people are brought on board. So I am looking forward to seeing GAIN’s staff continuing to grow in a smart, strategic way. When the right people are in place, working on a cause they care deeply about, the sky is truly the limit.

What A Win – Delta Airlines’ Legal Department’s T Visa Case

At GAIN, we value the efforts of every volunteer attorney that takes on a case; the work of our volunteers significantly improves the lives of our clients, and this effort deserves celebration. This season, we’d like to recognize the extraordinary team at Delta Airlines who secured T-Visa relief for a Mexican client. Ryan Langel, Fernanda Berry, and Regina Martinez of Delta Airlines worked tirelessly to advocate for a victim of trafficking who was brought to the United States under false pretenses, only to be forced into sex work. After a harrowing experience of suffering through multiple years of forced prostitution, the client was eventually able to escape her trafficker. With the help of Delta’s legal team, the client was later able to apply for immigration status, and was eventually granted a T Visa. 

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GAIN: How has your involvement with this case impacted you or your career? 

Delta Team: Becoming involved with GAIN has impacted our careers as it has given us the opportunity to work with members of our department who are not in our particular practice group. It helped build a sense of community, by bringing us together to work for a common goal. Our positive experience has also inspired others in our department to work with GAIN.

In addition, our company has been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking. Taking this case raised our personal awareness of the company’s global initiatives as a whole and gave us the incentive to join this fight.  Suffice it to say, our client’s bravery is what gave us the unique opportunity to learn more about this issue.

G: What was different or challenging about representing this case? What was rewarding or positive?

DT: Like any worthwhile opportunity, we faced challenges along the way; most notably, gaining our client’s trust to share the details of her unimaginable experience. Although we knew that we had to fully understand her experience in order to do what needed to be done to provide a truthful application, at times we found it difficult to ask the tough questions.  Although almost a decade had passed and our client’s recollections had understandably faded, it was evident that the painful memories still linger with her to this day.  Through several meetings, which at times brought out the raw emotions that will no doubt stay with our client for a lifetime, we were able to better understand the facts behind her case and provide her the opportunity to obtain her visa.

Representing this case was extremely rewarding. Finally obtaining approval of her application was more than just a victory in the sense that we accomplished a goal. Giving our client’s family the opportunity to be present in the United States legally and eliminate the fear they had daily of deportation not only was a victory in a professional sense, but knowing we changed her life and her children’s lives is extremely gratifying personally.

G: Do you believe this experience has been worthwhile? If so, in what ways? 

DT: In addition to being provided the opportunity to meet an incredibly brave individual like our client, this experience gave us exposure to an area of law that the three of us had very little to no experience.  Fortunately, our lack of expertise was consistently met with the continued support and guidance of the attorneys and staff at GAIN.  At every step of the way we could navigate the process in a relatively easy and effective manner because of the continued support provided by Alpa, Monica, and others. Working together, as a community in this fight against human trafficking, our client’s success has taught us that we can all make concrete difference in the lives of those affected by this senseless crime.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 Release

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State released their annual Trafficking in Persons (“TIP”) Report. See the full report here.

The biggest highlights and controversies of the State Department’s analysis include raising Malaysia and Cuba‘s rankings from Tier 3 (a failing grade) to Tier 2 (the watch list), and keeping Cambodia’s ranking at Tier 2 despite its significant decrease in child sexual exploitation over the past decade.

What Americans really think about Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration is getting a lot of attention this year as new presidential candidates begin their campaigns for the 2016 election. Many candidates will attempt to communicate their stance on immigration reform in the coming months, signaling its importance to the voting public. If you did not read the Pew Research Center article titled Broad Public Support for Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants that GAIN posted two weeks ago, here is a summary.

The Pew Research Center has conducted an illuminating survey concerning how the public feels regarding paths to legal status for undocumented immigrants.  The survey was conducted on May 12-18 of this year with 2,002 participants, and the results are stirring the public. Most support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. About 51 percent of the survey participants said that immigrants contribute much to the United States economy with their hard work, while 41 percent say that immigrants are a “burden,” on society.

This survey’s participants gave President Obama a 37 percent approval rating on his handling of the nation’s immigration policy, some of his lowest approval ratings to date. Furthermore, each demographic has a different opinion on the broader topic. For example, the majority of younger adults are in favor of providing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants; however, older adults have a more negative view of the issue. Overall, most Americans reject the idea that giving those who came to the U.S. illegally a path to legal status is in essence “rewarding” them for bad behavior. Nearly six-in-ten, 58 percent, say that they do not think of a path to legal status in these terms, while 36 percent say it is “like rewarding them for doing something wrong.”

Board Member Spotlight – Sarah Hawk

Board Co-Chair Sarah Hawk is a crucial member of the GAIN family. She has worked with us for over seven years in several capacities, gracefully guiding the organization as a board member and improving the lives of many of our clients as a volunteer attorney.

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In an effort to celebrate  Sarah’s service and support, we would like to give you all the opportunity to get to know her better.

Sarah Hawk is a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, practicing in the Atlanta and Raleigh offices of the firm. She provides immigration counsel to numerous corporate clients and is a frequent speaker nationally and regionally on business immigration issues. Sarah has been recognized as a Who’s Who in Asian-American Communities and was named to Who’s Who Legal 2010 for her work as an immigration attorney. She is listed in Georgia Super Lawyers – Rising Stars 2010 and she has been listed in Chambers USA, America’s Leading Business Lawyers since 2009 and Who’s Who Legal Corporate Immigration in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Sarah enjoys family time with her husband Shawn Gross, a Director at an Atlanta law firm, and daughter Zoe. Sarah is training to run her 10th (and final) marathon in New York this November.

How did you get involved with GAIN?

I learned about GAIN and met Cheryl Naja, a current GAIN Advisory Board member and longtime GAIN supporter, when I worked at Alston & Bird. I also met Monica Khant, GAIN’s Executive Director, through our American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) chapter and the local immigration community. Both of these women drew me to GAIN, and I have loved working with them and the GAIN Board for over seven years.

The opportunity to work with GAIN came as a true blessing; my corporate immigration day job has allowed me to contribute my time and energy outside of work to helping the most vulnerable victims of violence and human trafficking obtain immigration relief, all with the support of a fantastic nonprofit organization.

Why is GAIN important to you? 

Many aspiring attorneys go to law school with hopes that they can change the world. GAIN is actually doing that by helping hundreds of immigrants each year who are victims of trafficking and violence. These individuals desperately need pro bono legal assistance, and GAIN is able to provide it.

On a personal note, I was born in the Philippines, which currently is one of the largest source countries for trafficking of young children.

What is your favorite memory associated with GAIN?

I was the Chair for our first Gala two years ago at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, which required a huge leap of faith and work. After two “snow/ice” delays, finally seeing the ballroom filled with two hundred attendees and supporters of GAIN was an amazing moment.

What would you like to see in GAIN’s future? 

GAIN has been one of Atlanta’s best-kept secrets for pro bono immigration legal work, and it has grown incredibly in the past few years.

My hope is that GAIN will continue to grow within the legal and corporate communities, and be at the center of pro bono immigration work. I also hope to see GAIN act as a facilitator to coordinate work with university immigration law clinics and other related legal groups in Atlanta and the Southeast.

Atlanta is a large metropolitan areas with a huge need for immigration pro bono assistance, especially for victims of human trafficking. GAIN’s network of corporate sponsors and supporters is critical to our stability and success. We hope anyone who has an interest in volunteering or supporting us will reach out to us at our website.

What a Win – Kilpatrick Townsend’s T-Visa Case

At GAIN, we value the efforts of every volunteer attorney that takes on a case; the work of our volunteers significantly improves the lives of our clients, and this effort deserves celebration. This season, we’d like to recognize the extraordinary team at Kilpatrick Townsend who secured T-Visa relief for a Korean client.

Ji-min came to GAIN with a story all too familiar for many of our trafficking clients. In 2004, she was a nurse in South Korea until she fell into financial hardship. She had co-signed a loan for a friend who later abandoned her, and left Ji-min with a significant debt. While working in salons in South Korea to pay back this debt, Ji-min met a “broker,” a trafficking middleman that arranges employment for migrant workers, who said that he knew of better jobs in the United States. Ji-min still needed to pay money from the debt and agreed. Her broker sent her to Texas where she was told that she would work in a spa.

However, Ji-min never imagined the terrible circumstances that awaited her in Texas. She did not know that she would be forced to perform sexual acts in addition to massages until after she was trained. She asked to go home, but was told that she could not leave until she paid off her new debt to her broker. Furthermore, her broker threatened that without immigration status, she would be arrested. Ji-min was told that owed the spa for her travel expenses, room and board, make up, and clothes – she had no choice but to stay. At the end of the day, the spa owner would take all of the money Ji-min earned, and refuse to return Ji-min’s passport to her. With no possibility for escape or self-determination, Ji-min was truly enslaved.

Over the next nine years, Ji-min was transferred to several different spas. Each time she was transferred, many additional fees were added to her debt. Eventually, she arrived in Atlanta to work in yet another spa.

In 2013, Ji-min’s horrific working conditions finally came to an end. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid revealed the unlawful activities of the spa, and rescued Ji-min from her traffickers. Due to her status as a victim of trafficking, Ji-min was able to secure immigration relief through pro bono representation with GAIN volunteer attorneys.

The Kilpatrick Townsend team that represented Ji-min was comprised of Attorneys Jamie Graham, Kathryn Isted, and Amy McCullough. The three worked tirelessly to apply for a T-visa for Ji-min, a form of relief for immigrant victims of human trafficking that provides work authorization, authorized stay in the United States for 4 years, and the eligibility to obtain a Green Card. In May, the attorneys were delighted to hear that Ji-min’s application was approved by USCIS.

Attorney Jamie Graham was acutely aware of the difference between representing a case for GAIN, and her typical legal work. Reflecting on her volunteer experience, Ms. Graham explains, “I prepare patent applications for highly successful scientists who have discovered life-saving pharmaceuticals, vaccines and diagnostic test. While the clients with whom I work are enthusiastic about their discoveries and thrilled when a patent is granted, they don’t reveal their emotions while describing the details of the project, never cry and certainly aren’t excited enough to hug their lawyers when the documents are finally drafted and ready for submission. The GAIN project exposed me to a whole new level of attorney service’.”

For Attorney Amy McCullough, representing a T-visa case represented a professional accomplishment. Identifying human trafficking as an issue of great importance to her, Ms. McCullough was thrilled to volunteer with GAIN, explaining that “as a healthcare regulatory lawyer, although I volunteered at various organizations over the years in an effort to make a difference in this area, I never had an opportunity to use my legal skills to make an impact in a specific individual’s life in any way…This client’s T-visa case was the first trafficking case I worked on and the first time I felt that I was able to use my legal experience and knowledge to make an impact in someone’s life in a truly meaningful way.”

The attorneys also reflected on the strong personal reaction while working on this case. Ms. McCullough’s empathy stemmed from her shared Korean descent, sensing familiarity despite the client’s distinctly different experiences. Ms. McCullough explains that “because we were both Korean and I understood most of what she was saying without a translator, I felt an immediate emotional connection with her and, at times, felt as if I was helping a family member.” Ms. Graham also felt the impact of the experience on an emotional level; “Everyone involved in this project felt our client’s pain as we gathered more and more information on one example of human tragedy that happens all around us without our knowledge. Then we had the pleasure of sharing her tears of joy when the process was behind us. Not only were we enlightened, but many lives were changed around our conference room table.”

GAIN is eternally grateful for the help and support offered by the Kilpatrick Townsend team, and joins them in celebrating the successful approval of their client’s T-visa application!