Spring 2015 - In This Issue:
"Where Are The Children?"
The New Yorker Magazine

A recent New Yorker Magazine article sheds much needed light on the extent to which Central American children fleeing gang violence and drug cartels in their home countries are exploited. Read the compelling article: "Where are the Children?"


AI Justice brought this issue to the attention of the article's author and is quoted in the story.  

In August 2014, AI Justice released its report, "Children Fleeing Central America: Stories From the Front Lines in Florida" to give voice to these remarkable children. 

New Board Members

We welcome three new members to our Board of Directors.  

Markenzy Lapointe is a partner at Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP in Miami. Khalid Mirza is President of Palmetto Subacute Care Center and UHI Community Care Clinic.  Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia is Consul General of Mexico in Miami and serving on our Board of Directors in his individual capacity.


We are also honored to welcome iconic photographer, Bruce Weber and Nan Bush to our Honorary Board.


Meet the rest of our Board of Directors.

Jones Day Provides Pro Bono Representation
 "I am very proud to be a part of Jones Day, which has committed countless resources and attorneys in recognition of the serious nature of this crisis and the positive impact that we can and will have on these children.  And the undertaking has a special personal significance for me -- I lived in Central America for many years and studied the conflicts that historically troubled the region.  I'm keenly aware of the structural roots of the problem that have led to a failure in the rule of law and a total lack of public security, where families fear they can no longer provide adequately for the safety and well being of their children." 
   - Johanna Rousseaux, Of Counsel


As the number of unaccompanied children seeking safety in the United States increased over the Summer of 2014, Johanna Rousseaux and Jones Day stepped up to the plate to quickly lend a helping hand.  They now represent several Central American children facing deportation and are working on a pro bono basis to ensure that children who arrive at our border receive fair treatment under our laws.  Help from attorneys such as Johanna can be life changing for a child victim of human trafficking or a child escaping brutal gang violence or other abuse in their homelands. We are extremely grateful for their help and support!

First Undocumented Immigrant Admitted to the Florida Bar Shares His Story

At our 19th Annual Awards Dinner, we also heard from Jose Manuel Godinez Samperio, who was born in Mexico and entered the US with his parents when he was 9.  He excelled in school, was valedictorian at his high school graduation, a National Honor Society Scholar, an Eagle Scout, and won scholarships to the New College of Florida and FSU's College of Law.  While in law school he interned at Gulf Coast Legal Services and FSU's Center for Advancement of Human Rights. 


Jose passed the Florida Bar and his application for admission to the Bar in 2011 included letters of support from 3 of his former law professors as well as the General Consul of the New College.  When his application turned into a court case, several friend of the court briefs were filed on his behalf, including from AI Justice and several past ABA presidents.


The Florida Supreme Court concluded that undocumented immigrants cannot be issued a law license. However, in August of last year, Florida's legislature passed a bill allowing non-citizen applicants who have lived here for ten years, fulfilled all other requirements for Bar admission, have registered for the draft, have a work permit, and have a driver's license to become lawyers.  Today, Jose works as a full-time lawyer with Gulf Coast Legal Services.  He also founded the DREAMer Bar Association a few years ago.

Young Professionals Happy Hour

The Young Professionals of AI Justice gathered for our Spring Happy Hour last week at Novecento in Brickell.  We had a great turnout and everyone enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making new connections!  Executive Committee Members Ian Ross of Greenberg Traurig, Esther Besonias of Sabadell Bank and Jessica Santis-Pompa of Alvarez and Marsal welcomed the group and we thank them for their leadership and dedication to AI Justice!



Learn more about the Young Professionals of AI Justice here!


AI Justice Thanks Our Funders
We are deeply grateful to our funders and supporters!

Judge Rosemary Barkett Delivers Powerful Keynote Address

Everyone in attendance at our 19th Annual Awards Dinner on March 6, 2015, was moved by Judge Rosemary Barkett's powerful keynote address. An immigrant herself and a fearless defender of due process, Judge Barkett spoke about the need to treat all people in the United States, regardless of race or color, whether documented or not, fairly under our laws. Prior to joining The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Judge Barkett served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She has also served in numerous capacities on Florida State Courts, including as the Florida Supreme Court's first female Chief Justice.  She has earned dozens of prestigious honors including The Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award and the Latin Business and Professional Women Lifetime Achievement AwardJudge Barkett was named one of the 2014 "Great Immigrants (The Pride of America)" by the Carnegie Corporation for her contributions in advancing American society.   


Click here to watch her timely and compelling remarks!

Staff receive accolades
H aydee Rodriguez, a BIA accredited paralegal with the LUCHA Program, was honored by The National Crime Victims' Rights Committee and The Coral Gables Police Department with the 2015 "Justice for All" Award for her exceptional work on behalf of survivors of crime.  Haydee has worked with LUCHA since 2000 and has enabled countless immigrant survivors of crime and their children to live without fear and to move forward with their lives. 


In April, during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, our LUCHA Program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and violent crime was recognized by Miami-Dade County's Community Action and Human Services Department for outstanding contributions, diligent efforts and a long-standing commitment to assisting victims of crime.

AI Justice's Executive Director, Cheryl Little, was honored by The Daily Business Review with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding service to the Florida legal community at their first Professional Excellence Awards Dinner.  

Read more from the Daily Business Review.
AI Justice in The Community
Working with Miami-Dade Schools

The Children's Legal Program has been invited by the Children's Trust and the School Board of Miami-Dade County to participate in meetings regarding education, intervention and assistance for the nearly 200 newly arrived Honduran children attending Booker T. Washington high school located in Overtown, Miami.  The meetings are on-going and the committee plans to hold events that will provide information and support to the children and their families as they learn to navigate life in their new community.

We celebrated 19 years of Upholding the American Dream!
19th Annual Awards Dinner
We held our 19th Annual Awards Dinner with 500 of South Florida's business and civic leaders in attendance. Lida Rodriguez-Taseff was presented with the Immigrant Spirit Award and Edwidge Danticat received the Holly Skolnick Human Rights Award. Neida Sandoval entertained the crowd and the evening concluded with Justice Rosemary Barkett's extraord inarily powerful keynote address.  Dinner Chairs Keith and Paulina Askins and Silent Auction Chair, Tina Cornely, helped to ensure that the evening was a success. A generous $50,000 matching grant from the TriMix Foundation provided further inspiration for guests to support the work of AI Justice, protecting and promoting t he basic human rights of immigrants. 


See more pictures here!

Client Spotlight
Through the support of donors, AI Justice is able to help people like Lionel, Ana and Tommy.
Lionel - Unaccompanied Child Survivor of Trafficking Granted Asylum

"Lionel" was raised in Guatemala by his grandmother until age 12, when he was forced to live with his father who forced him to stop attending school and work full-time on a construction site. Lionel, a small and slender child, was forced to do things like strap heavy construction materials to his back and carry them up several flights of stairs, six days a week. For three years, Lionel performed hard labor while his father received all of his hard-earned money. Often he went without food, and if he was caught going to his grandmother's house to be fed, his father would beat him... 

Read More

Ana - Indigenous Guatemala Mayan Woman Granted Trafficking Visa

"Ana" is an indigenous Mayan woman who at age 19 was recruited by a woman in her village who promised her a good job in the United States. When Ana arrived here, she was taken to rural Miami-Dade County where she began to work at a plant nursery run by Juan. After a few weeks, Juan began to charge Ana for her food, rent and clothing, always reminding her that she owed him for her trip to the US...

Read More 

Tommy - Unaccompanied Minor Granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

"Tommy" lost his mother at a young age and his father never provided him regular care or supervision. Tommy's father left him after his mother passed away and the child was left in the care of his grandmother. Tommy was terrified that gangs were going to kill him as they had killed his boss for refusing to pay a "war tax."   Tommy had to quit school because the gangs were forcefully recruiting all the boys his age.  Tommy also knew his elderly grandmother could no longer protect him or provide for him and chose to make the perilous journey to the US to the only relative willing and able to take care of him... 

Read More 

AI Justice Welcomes New Staff


  • Jessica Alvarez, Director of Finance
  • Stefanie Black, Staff Attorney
  • Brian Kundinger, Paralegal
  • Lisa Lauck, Supervising Attorney
  • Krisel McSweeney, Staff Attorney
  • Daniella Miret, Paralegal
  • Lesley Salas, Grants Manager
  • Erica Sonn, justice AmeriCorps Attorney                                                                                                                And is pleased to announce the following promotions:                                   
  • Cecilia Huerta, Accounting Clerk
  • Michelle Ortiz, Deputy Director
  • Jessica Shulruff, Supervising Attorney, Detention and Residency, Citizenship and Asylum Programs
  • Yolanda Vasquez, Director of Administration and Human Resources

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