Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Pro Bono Spotlight: Gibson Dunn's Truitt Helps DACA Applicants

The Pro Bono Spotlight honors APALC’s attorney volunteers and the important work they do to help us fulfill our mission. This month, we recognize Todd Truitt, associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and a member of the firm’s Corporate Department. Since October 2012, Todd has volunteered dozens of hours at several of APALC’s onsite and offsite Deferred Action Clinics.*

We asked Todd to discuss his volunteer work with APALC:

How did you learn about APALC, and what prompted you to get involved?

I had been following the DACA program since it was first announced in June 2012 and had read a number of very compelling stories about the children and young adults who would qualify for it.  Then around 4 months later, our pro bono coordinators emailed about the need for help at APALC’s DACA clinics and I jumped at the opportunity.  

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience?

At each clinic, we have the opportunity to help a number of children and young adults apply for DACA, the approval for which will truly improve their lives.  And qualifying for DACA not only makes a difference for the applicant, but also provides his or her family with the peace of mind that their relative will soon be able to live his or her life without fear of deportation.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience as an APALC volunteer?

The most important thing I’ve learned as an APALC volunteer is how to provide legal advice to a much larger cross-section of the public.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your volunteer experience?

I’ve heard so many compelling stories at the DACA clinics, but the one that sticks out the most was from a 20-year-old woman who was going to college and was terrified about the possibility of one day being deported to Mexico.  Her parents had brought her to the U.S. when she was 6 months old, which was the last time they were in Mexico.  In addition, she had no family left there and her parents had not spoken to their friends from their tiny village in Central Mexico since they left 20 years ago. 

To her, being deported to Mexico meant being sent to a foreign country to which she’d never been and where she had no support network.  Hearing her story, I realized that for her and many DACA applicants, their home country is the United States.  Moreover, by participating at DACA clinics, I am helping applicants obtain the opportunity to live normal lives here as adults, something most of them have always dreamed about.

* Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) is a federal administrative program that provides temporary protection from deportation, also known as removal, proceedings for eligible undocumented youth and young adults who came to the United States as children. While it does not provide a pathway to legal status for these individuals, it does make them eligible for employment authorization. To date, APALC has assisted more than 1,500 applicants for DACA through free weekly legal workshops. APALC will continue to do this work with volunteer attorneys like Todd, who assist our clients pro bono.

To learn about volunteer opportunities for attorneys, please contact Nisha Vyas, Pro Bono Director, by email: [email protected].

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.