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Ashli Arbo shares her efforts in Pro Bono work.

October 28, 2009

Inaugural class member, Ashli Sutton Arbo, clerked for an immigration firm in Nashville, Tennessee, in the summer of 2006.  That summer, her entire attention was focused on providing free legal service to a Rwandan woman who had immigrated to the United States.

The Rwandan survivor had experienced persecution after testifying against perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.  The immigration court in Memphis had granted her asylum; however, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appealed the decision with a lengthy brief that needed to be answered in detail.  The majority of Ms. Arbo’s summer was spent researching and drafting the response brief on behalf of the Rwandan genocide survivor.  On appeal, Ms. Arbo’s opposing brief persuaded the judges, and the survivor now lives free of persecution in the United States.

“At the time I provided the service, the average yearly income for a Rwandan approximately equaled the cost of an American immigration attorney for one hour.  It's not feasible to expect persecuted asylum-seekers from underdeveloped nations to afford legal services in the United States.  If I hadn't volunteered to take the case, she probably would have had no assistance and would have lost her appeal against Homeland Security.”

Ms. Arbo spent approximately 150 hours on this case.  For her efforts, she received the Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award at the law school’s 3L Awards Banquet in the spring of 2007.

Ms. Arbo encourages students to get involved in pro bono work early in their careers.  “When opportunities to love and serve those less fortunate than you present themselves, take them.  It's never something you regret!  It seems like we're always faithfully provided for when we're committed to meeting the needs of others.”