VBA Features Prominently in National Media
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The Virginia Bar Association features prominently in the national media, thanks to an article in the October issue of The Atlantic magazine. The topic is unaccompanied minors immigrating to the United States. The article features a teenager named Guillermo who fled El Salvador in 2014.
“I just put Guillermo’s green card application in the mail to him today,” Nick Marritz, a Legal Aid Justice Center attorney in Northern Virginia, told the VBA Oct. 20.
Marritz addressed Virginia lawyers as the featured speaker at a VBA Summer Meeting CLE session, “Special Immigrant Juveniles: Best Practices for Family Law and Immigration Practitioners.” The Atlantic article “Young, Illegal, and Alone” describes the back-and-forth Marritz had with attendees at the presentation co-sponsored by the Domestic Relations Section, the VBA Commission on the Needs of Children and the Young Lawyers Division.
“I was pleased to have a sitting juvenile court judge there, a commonwealth’s attorney for Henrico and of course Pete Johnson,” Marritz told the VBA. “It’s always nice to have the president of the organization at your presentation. We’re blessed to have the VBA on board.”
“The lawyers took their seats in a banquet room at rows of green-clothed tables,” the article reads. “Before he began, Marritz placed a sign-up sheet at the front…. At the end of the talk, Marritz flipped through the pages of the sign-up sheet, looking at the list of new volunteers. ‘This is like gold,’ he said.”
“I can’t thank them enough,” he told the VBA about the attorneys who volunteered. He was quick to add that they come from 100-attorney firms and solo practices, in many parts of the state, including even Accomack on the Eastern Shore.
“Lawyers are stepping up all over the state, and I want to thank the VBA for participating in the training.” The VBA also had a hand in a training session in conjunction with a local bar meeting in Harrisonburg earlier this year.
“Children who appear in immigration court by themselves have about a 7 percent chance of a successful outcome,” the article reads. “If they’re presented by counsel, they have about a 70 percent chance.”
Marritz handles Northern Virginia cases involving unaccompanied minor immigrants. In the commonwealth, Fairfax has the highest incidence of these cases. Marritz is counsel of record in 38 immigration cases but has outsourced all the family court cases. About 85 cases have been heard in family court, and about 100 cases are open now. In the rest of the state, kids are scattered here or there, he said, and the legal system is less accustomed to these cases. A recent Legal Aid hire handles Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases outside of Northern Virginia.
The Legal Aid program lost some capacity after some funding dried up, Marritz said. “But there’s still more need. There’s plenty of need, from Bedford to Harrisonburg to Williamsburg.”
Marritz is scheduled to do another training Oct. 21 at the Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference in Williamsburg.
The VBA Journal published an article about the SIJS process, "Refugee Crisis: The Role of Virginia Courts in Addressing Unaccompanied Alien Minors," in the winter 2014-15 issue. It was written by current VBA Board of Governors member Richard E. Garriott Jr.