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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

Mariela E. Camisassa
Pro Bono Attorney

How long have you been practicing law?

I have been practicing law for about 8 years.

What area of law do you specialize in?

We represent all types of clients in removal proceedings as well as family based petitions. We handle a large amount of children's cases in which children are seeking asylum or special immigrant juvenile status, SIJS.

If you work for a firm, which firm?

Manduely & Camisassa, PC.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Esperanza?

I started volunteering for Esperanza right after I passed the bar exam in 2009. I became aware of their outstanding work through a friend and I immediately felt that I wanted to be a part of what they were doing. From the beginning I loved the fact that Esperanza existed. In my mind they were an amazing organization with very well trained attorneys that provided excellent representation to children and families in need. I would say I chose Esperanza because of their advocacy and professionalism.

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

My experience has always been positive. They have always answered all my questions and I have received the training that I needed from Esperanza to efficiently represent children

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

Through the years I have taken numerous cases pro bono from Esperanza. I recently took on the case of a boy from Guatemala. This child never met his father; he was abandoned by his mother and severely abused by his aunt. He not only suffered physical abuse but he was also sexually abused by some neighbors. We applied for asylum under TVPRA and the asylum office approved the case.

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

I always feel great when I receive positive results. It is very rewarding to help a child to stay in a safer environment. When my children receive favorable results, most of them are very grateful and overjoyed. I can see hope rising in their faces. The fear of being separated from mom, dad or other family members vanishes. They know that they can remain with their loved ones and they are not going to be deported. Fortunately, I have only received any favorable results. Most of these cases are not difficult to win.

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

The experience of representing children is rewarding but it requires much patience. My advice is you should take a case because you become a more well rounded and understanding attorney just by connecting with the realities these children experience. Children are very smart and can recall a lot of details of what has happened to them. But it always requires patience to build trust. I always make sure that they understand that I am representing them and not their parents.

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

Communication with the client is always challenging. In my last case, my client was 19 years old and he did not have much parental support; which is typical in these cases. Many parents work and it is difficult for them to bring the kids to our office for appointments. This particular client would constantly lose his phone. It was really difficult to keep in contact with him. Nevertheless, I always reminded myself to be patient and persistent in reaching out to him. Most of the time this happens because of their dysfunctional background.

What did you learn from your experience taking a pro bono case?

I learned about the different aspects of representing a child in immigration proceedings. It is not only about winning the case; it is also making sure that the child is safe and well taken care of. Esperanza has great legal trainings that cover many aspects of children's representation.

Why is Esperanza’s mission important to you?

Esperanza brings justice to the most vulnerable members of our society. They keep families together and children safe. I love children, and I enjoy partnering with Esperanza in bringing justice to children's lives.