Pro bono spotlight: Citizenship gets client closer to family reunion

  • By
  • | 12:00 p.m. June 13, 2016
  • Law
  • Share

Seeking stability and a better life, a client of pro bono attorney Joanne Fakhre came to the U.S. from Haiti.

She was a legal permanent resident, but four members of her immediate family were still in Haiti hoping to follow her to America.

Fakhre describes how she helped the family.

What were the basic facts of your case?

My client is originally from Haiti. She was granted her legal permanent residence status through asylum on Oct. 5, 2015.

She is married with four children. The youngest child was born in the U.S. Her other three children and her husband live in Haiti.

My client wanted to become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible in order to petition to get them here so the family could be together.

What were you able to accomplish for your client?

She is now a U.S. citizen.

Why was the outcome important to your client?

As a naturalized citizen, my client would be able to file visa petitions for her husband and children in Haiti and her family would be immediately eligible to file for their legal permanent resident statuses.

Before she became a U.S. citizen, she could file visa petitions for them, but the process would take several years at best before they would be able to join her.

Also, my client is the only source of income for the family. She was providing financially for herself and her child here and was sending money to take care of her home, husband and the other children in Haiti.

It was an enormous financial burden for her and her children missed her.

Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience?

I am extremely close to my family and have always been, so I understand the necessity or desire to be together.

Becoming a U.S. citizen was one of the proudest moments of my life. I remember my naturalization date — Jan. 12, 2010 — and the feelings I had.

Each time I attend a naturalization ceremony or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I am filled with intense pride.

Every time I am able to help a fellow immigrant become a U.S. citizen or help a family stay together, it is a reminder to me of what is important in life. It keeps me grounded.

In this profession, unfortunately, one can lose sight of that. Practicing the family aspect of immigration law and being trusted to be a part of people’s lives is humbling, to say the least.

What is the name of your firm?

Joanne M. Fakhre P.A.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?

Just do it.

I know sometimes it is extremely difficult to take on more work than we already have, especially when doing everything alone or with minimal help or even working for a large firm where meeting billable hours is of utmost importance to one’s career.

However, I believe as attorneys, we are obligated to share our knowledge to help others, especially the less fortunate. It is only by the grace of God that I am fortunate enough to do so.

Every time you see the tears of appreciation for something you did which has a tremendous impact on someone’s life, it makes you rich beyond measure.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to give back in some way.

Fakhre’s assistance means this family is closer to a long-awaited reunion. It means they are closer to establishing a life of support and opportunity in their new country.

Fakhre’s pro bono assistance will have life-changing impact for her client and her family members.

Attorneys interested in finding out about pro bono opportunities available in the 4th Judicial Circuit should contact Para at [email protected].