Subscribe to keep up to date on Esperanza news and events.

A project of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc.

General Line: (213) 251-3505

Fax: (213) 487-0986 

1530 James M Wood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015, USA

©2019 by Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Designed and created by Luis D Gonzalez for Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Amy Sommers
Pro Bono Attorney

How long have you been practicing law?

2 years in California, 4 years in total.

What area of law do you specialize in?

Environmental Litigation

Why did you choose to volunteer with Esperanza?

I wanted to do pro bono that impacted the community around me. Around this time, I listened to many news stories on NPR about child migrants. Then, I went to a networking event where I met another pro bono attorney who was involved with Esperanza. After hearing about her cases, I decided I would get involved too.

What was your experience like as a pro bono attorney for Esperanza?

It has been a very rewarding and motivating experience. I did not have a strong legal background in immigration law prior to working with Esperanza, with the exception of my own immigration experience (which was very different as I am from Canada). Even so, Esperanza has been a wonderful resource and mentorship: Kimberly answered every question I had, walked me through the MCH and the asylum interview, and supported me in structuring the legal arguments for my client's asylum case. I learned a lot in my first case. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I took on my second pro bono case. Esperanza's network of volunteers, including volunteer translators, was also an excellent resource for getting through my first asylum case.

What was your experience like working with your client?

My first pro bono client was an 8 year old Honduran. Despite everything that happened to her, and her unimaginable journey to the US, she was strong and optimistic. I was moved by her story. She was always appreciative of my time and work and we developed a great attorney-client relationship.

Tell us a little bit about your client’s form of relief and claim. What was the result in the case?

My client applied for asylum on the basis of her membership in a particular social group. She faced severe domestic violence in her home country of Honduras. Together, we worked very hard in preparing her case, locating witnesses, and obtaining corroborating evidence. In April of this year she was granted asylum by the LA Asylum Office.

How did you feel after you received the result in your case? How did your client feel?

It was a surreal day. Together, my client and I went to the Asylum Office to receive the decision. The moment that the Asylum Officer read the decision to my client and confirmed that the Asylum Office granted her application is unforgettable. Every minute, late night, and weekend spent working on her case was worth it. My client was very anxious throughout the legal proceeding. For the first time since I started working with her, I saw her laugh and play following the Asylum Office's decision.

What advice would you give to a lawyer considering taking a case from Esperanza?

The best advice I have to another attorney considering taking a case from Esperanza is to be emotionally and mentally prepared to listen to the client's story. Since I work in environmental litigation, I was not typically exposed to domestic violence stories. In line with this, some clients need to trust you before they can open up to the more difficult elements of their story. It can take several months before the client will reveal these experiences to you. So, be prepared to spend time developing a relationship of trust with your client.

What was the most challenging aspect of your pro bono case?

For me, the most challenging aspect of accepting a pro bono asylum case was getting up to speed on the law and all possible avenues of relief for my client in a short period of time.