A team led from Latham’s San Diego office has received a “California Lawyers of the Year” (CLAY) award from the Daily Journal for a pro bono project that helps US military veterans apply for immigration status for which they are eligible due to their military service. Working in partnership with the ACLU of Southern California, the project team has raised awareness that certain noncitizen military veterans qualify for benefits that allow them to naturalize as citizens of their adopted country for which they’ve bravely served. “We view this as a very meaningful project,” Latham partner Colleen Smith told the Daily Journal in a published CLAY award profile.
In particular, the team was commended for representing veteran Daniel Torres, who gained citizenship while he had no legal status in the US and was unable to reenter the country from Mexico. Latham associates James Erselius and Taiga Takahashi co-led the Torres case with Ms. Smith, which involved navigating complex immigration rules and counselling Mr. Torres ahead of a crucial interview with immigration officials that eventually led to his citizenship. Following on that success, the Latham pro bono team continues to assist others in similar situations, including US veterans currently residing in Ecuador, India and Mexico.