HARRISBURG (May 10, 2010) - The York County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center will receive the Louis J. Goffman Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation for their innovative joint initiative, the Central Pennsylvania Immigration Project.
The Goffman Award, named for a late Pennsylvania Bar Association president, is given annually to an individual and to a group or organization for outstanding pro bono work. The 2010 award will be presented on May 13 during the Pennsylvania Bar Association Annual Meeting held in Hershey.
The York County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, a nonprofit group serving detainees in the York County Prison, recognized increases in the numbers of foreign national women and children seeking protection from abusive domestic relationships. They also noticed that a growing number of foreign nationals were seeking relief provided to those subjected to human trafficking, involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage and slavery. In addition, they noted an increasing number of foreign nationals were seeking relief provided to those suffering substantial physical and mental abuse as a result of being victims of criminal activity.
Actual legal support mechanisms to assist foreign nationals were lacking in York County, so victims were left with few options but to remain with their abusers or traffickers.
In early 2009, a group of York County Bar Association lawyers met with county bar leadership to seek support and funding to launch a program that would connect the vulnerable foreign national population with pro bono legal representatives. At the same time, the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center agreed to help form the Central Pennsylvania Immigration Project as a nonprofit organization.
Since its inception, the Central Pennsylvania Immigration Project has recruited six volunteer immigration attorneys from the York County Bar Association and seven volunteer paralegals from the York County Paralegal Association. The project also has built a network of community partners, including the YWCA of York, ACCESS-York Women's Shelter, the Victim Assistance Center and the YWCA of Hanover's Safe Home project.
Because of the project's success, other Pennsylvania counties have expressed interest in initiating programs following the model established in York County.
The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, improves the public's understanding of the law and its appreciation of democracy and strives to ensure that citizens, particularly Pennsylvania's most vulnerable, have full access to our legal system. The foundation accomplishes its mission by making grants, seeking financial support from individuals and organizations both within and outside of the legal community, and encouraging bar members to donate their time, talent and expertise in service to the public.