Counterpart International Board Member and Vice Chair Raul Herrera is driven by justice. Although an accomplished corporate attorney, it is his years of pro-bono work that recently won him accolades.
In April 2016, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), awarded Raul and his colleagues at Arnold & Porter with their 2016 Vision Award for their pro-bono work assisting Central American children.
“My own involvement began when Wendy Young described the very real scenario of a five or six-year-old girl alone and frightened, standing in front of a decision maker in an immigration proceeding without assistance from an adult,’ explained Raul.
As a father of three children himself, Raul says this issue touched his heart. It also deeply touched his colleagues at Arnold & Porter.
Attorneys at Arnold & Porter have long been known for their incredible work defending the vulnerable. In the early days, they represented some of those unjustly accused by Senator Joe McCarthy, and later they would go on to defend Clarence Gideon in the landmark Supreme Court Case that decided that all criminal defendants are entitled to legal counsel.
Dedicated to global justice, it was hard to ignore the crises unfolding in Central America.
El Salvador is a tiny and deeply impoverished nation of 6 million people bordering the Pacific Ocean with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Freddy David Leveron, a young Salvadoran, spoke to NPR in 2015 about the crisis facing school children in rural northern El Salvador.
‘I was afraid there, he says. The gangs started shaking down my friends and demanding monthly quotas. As much as a thousand dollars, if they know you have a parent in the U.S… If you don’t pay, you’re killed.’ So, he stopped going.
This story seems to repeat itself all throughout Central America as the region has become engulfed in gang violence and narcotics trafficking. In 2014, children from all across the region began making a run for the US border. For those like Freddy, who has a parent in the United States, hope lies across the border.
“I want to go and get to know my dad,” Freddy says. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen him.”
Many of these children qualify and apply for the new Obama administration program called Central American Minors Resettlement. It allows children under the age of 21 to rejoin their families in the U.S. if their parents are legally residing in the United States. However, there is no court-appointed counsel for Immigration Court.
Thus, many of these young children, unfamiliar with the law, the process, and the language, did not know where to begin. Their plight was made easier because of the work of Raul Herrera and his colleagues at Arnold & Porter.
Having worked for years across Latin America, Raul and his team organized a network of top caliber legal counsel in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to serve as counsel to these children at their local immigration processing centers. And although pro-bono work is not widely popular in Central America, 13 out of the 15 firms they knew from their commercial work volunteered to participate!
As a result, Arnold &Porter and KIND now have lawyers in place all throughout the region to help with applications for children in the beginning stages. Additionally, as of today more than 36 children from all across Central America are being represented in their U.S. immigration processes. It is likely that without this counsel their applications would be rejected.
We at Counterpart, are proud of the truly commendable work that our Board Member, Mr. Raul Herrera, continues to do across Central America and the United States, helping people build better lives and more durable futures, community by community.
The entire Counterpart International team congratulates Raul Herrera and his colleagues at Arnold & Porter on their 2016 Vision Award.