Pro Bono Spotlight: Catalina Vergara
As the number of children crossing the US-Mexico border surged two years ago, Financial Services partner Catalina Vergara reached out to David Lash, managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services, to see what the firm could do to help.
“The injustices faced by undocumented immigrants in this country have been a huge concern of mine since I was in law school,” said Vergara, a native Spanish-speaker.
“There’s that saying, ‘the true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.’ I really believe that. The children who come to this country without papers are truly the most vulnerable within a population that already faces so many hurdles. I find it very fulfilling to play a small part in their transition to a better life.”
Lash, Vergara said, “was instrumental in getting a number of cases referred to us from KIND, Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek, and other legal services organizations.”
Over the last year, Vergara and a team of associates in the LA office have handled a number of cases referred to the firm through KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), representing unaccompanied minors who have come to this country from Central America. In most of the cases, the minors have fled violence in their home countries. Vergara and her team have helped them apply for asylum or SIJS special immigrant juvenile status (“SIJS”) for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent.
“The children, some of them as young as four or five, have heartbreaking stories to tell about the dangers they faced in their home countries,” Vergara said. “And the fact that each of them made the journey to this country alone—sometimes with a sibling, but never with an adult—is just incredible to me. They are so brave.”