Despite government shutdowns and political stalemates, countless leaders across the country continue to fight for new Americans. Tally Kingsnorth, Pro Bono Program Director at Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, is one of those people. I’m honored bring you an interview with her today, where she talks about how immigration is in her blood and close to her heart. LIRS Media Relations Specialist Clarissa Perkins conducted the interview over email.
Clarissa Perkins (CP): What drove you to become involved with immigrants and refugees?
Tally Kingsnorth (TK): Immigration is in my blood and close to my heart. As a California kid, I went to bilingual education schools, which still existed in the 1980s. Many of my friends were children that had immigrated themselves just days, weeks, or months before we became playmates. As a teenager, I participated in an ACLU program for high school students, which included a week-long trip around the state of California and to the border to study immigration issues. Meanwhile, every single other member of my family besides me immigrated to the United States or continues to live abroad. So, it’s hard to say that there’s one thing that drove me to become involved with immigrants and refugees … it’s more like this was the only road that I saw ahead of me as I began to build towards a career.
CP: You recently took part in our Access to Justice unit’s Community Support Network gathering in North Carolina. Can you briefly describe the highlights of the conference? What was your biggest takeaway?
TK: There are so many good people out there doing their part to try to make another person’s life a little bit better. It’s nice to take a break from the day-to-day tasks ahead, and pause to talk with others who are using their varied skills and talents to contribute to our communities. My favorite aspect of the conference was the chance to meet and spend time with non-lawyers who provide services to detained immigrants. It was a good reminder that there are different ways of approaching an issue, that one can work at a calm pace, and that there are many needs that the law cannot meet.
CP: Your organization provides a “know your rights” legal orientation presentation for detainees. What is a right that most detainees don’t know, but should know?
TK: Many lawful permanent residents don’t know that they can lose their green card – and pretty easily too.
CP: What is the hardest challenge detainees face in Arizona?
TK: Release from detention is really difficult. Our judges tend to deny a lot of bond requests based on flight risk and danger or they’ll set really high bonds. In some other places in the country it’s not so difficult to get a reasonable bond amount.
CP: As the pro bono director, what do you think drives most of your pro bono attorneys to represent immigrants?
TK: It depends on the pro bono attorney. Our lawyers come from a variety of different arenas: solo immigration lawyers, small, medium, big firm attorneys, and sometimes in-house counsel. For a lot of the immigration attorneys, the main goal is to support the Florence Project because they really believe in what we do and appreciate how we contribute to our little legal community. With others, I think that they want to do something nice for another person, they want to get in-court experience, and have a manageable sized project. Lastly, there’s definitely a contingent of pro bono attorneys who are truly disturbed by how Arizona treats the immigrants in this state and they are looking for a way to counterbalance that reality through their own volunteer work.