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- 2013 - April - 29th -
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Florida Coastal School of Law and University of Florida law students,along with pro bono attorneys, assisted with the Vietnamese Refugee Outreach Project.

Pro bono attorneys, law students serve Vietnamese community

by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

On March 30, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at Florida Coastal School of Law held its Vietnamese Refugee Outreach Project.

The project provided indigent and special-needs Vietnamese refugees with free legal assistance in the naturalization process.

In all, 21 refugees who sought help with their application for naturalization and advice about the path to citizenship in the United States attended the event.

This project differs from Florida Coastal’s annual Citizenship Day. Most of the refugees required in-depth legal assistance because of their age, language barriers and/or medical conditions.

Therefore, the Florida Coastal Immigrant Rights Clinic will provide full-service representation throughout the remaining citizenship process.

The event would not have been possible without the help and support of Deans Alicia Edwards and Thomas Taggart, the Florida Coastal Marketing & Communications Department, Florida Coastal Security, the Student Bar Association and the staff and student clinicians of the clinic.

There were four attorneys, nine interpreters and 30 students who volunteered at the event.

The project not only provided students with legal experience, but it also promoted multiculturalism and awareness of diversity among the faculty and student body.

The Vietnamese Association and the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association of the University of Florida Levin College of Law also greatly contributed to the project. 

Members of the Vietnamese Association helped advertise the project throughout Jacksonville and volunteered as interpreters and members of the UF association chapter traveled from Gainesville to Jacksonville, volunteered as interpreters and provided their full support.

Sincere thanks are extended to:

• Attorneys Nicolle Piquet, Thao Tran, Vanessa Bernadotte and professor Ericka Curran.

•UF Asian Pacific American Law Student Association members Riely Cho and Bao Tran.

• Florida Coastal students Rashae Chambers, Ai Morita, Beatrice Adeoye, Caitlin Adorni, Destardes Heath, Dipa Patel, Emily Ruse, Gregoriy Dykshteyn, Karla Arauz, Mariana Bispo, Stephanie Chopurian, Tracy Engle and Tamisha Blake.

• Immigrant Rights Clinic clinicians Maureen Porras, Michael Kim, Orlando Mata, Tony Nguyen, Jorge Mares, Kermit Mongo, Lauren Soriano and Leah Gregoire.

• Student interpreters Dat Nguyen, Luan Mai, Ly Tran, Bich Tran and Bao Tran.

• Vietnamese Association of Jacksonville interpreters Hoang Vu, Minh Le, Nhu-Hoang Le and Thai Binh Nguyen.

• Florida Coastal Asian Pacific American Law Student Association executive board members, President Shimpei Kawasaki, Vice President Bich Tran, Treasurer Sagar Jariwala and Secretary Sweta Tekal.

Coordinator Bich Tran and the board organized this project under the Curran’s supervision.

Since each member has personally experienced the intricacies of the citizenship process, they recognized the immediate need to provide legal assistance to the Jacksonville Vietnamese community.

Fittingly, the association’s motto is, “a small change can make a big impact.”

It hopes to turn this project into an annual pro bono event at Florida Coastal and to expand the project to other Jacksonville pocket communities.

For information on pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit, attorneys are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee at kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org

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