International law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP has received a 2024 Beacon of Justice award from The National Legal Aid & Defenders Association (NLADA) for its pro bono efforts helping Afghans.

“Never before have we had so many attorneys, offices, and departments working on a set of human rights cases together in this way,” said Dorsey Pro Bono Counsel Alysia Zens. “We’re helping Afghans. We’re learning about their culture, their lives, their fears, their dreams. We’re getting to know their children. We’re becoming part of their families. We’ll never be the same.”

Dorsey has a long and substantial history of doing impactful civil and human rights work, carrying death penalty cases, asylum cases, and large-scale human rights cases. The firm has grown in the area of human rights work supporting Afghans in the following ways:

Des Moines Afghan Clinic
More than 1,000 Afghan nationals found refuge in Iowa after being evacuated from their homeland in 2021. Dorsey’s Des Moines office participated in a legal clinic in the fall of 2022 to assist Afghans with applying for asylum to stay in the U.S. as their temporary immigration status was reaching expiration. 

Afghan Public Defender Project
A U.S. nonprofit requested Dorsey’s support in 2022 when Afghan employee lives were at risk for the work they were doing in Afghanistan to support a fair and safe environment for Afghans. The anticipated work for Dorsey to prepare humanitarian parole applications for 16 employees and their families was projected to take 15 hours per client. “These clients needed so much more than some simple assistance filling out a couple-page form,” said Dorsey Pro Bono Counsel Alysia Zens. “They needed us to assist them with wrap-around help in completely transitioning their lives.” The work instead took hundreds of hours per family, involving more than 60 Dorsey and client volunteers across seven Dorsey offices. 

Church World Service Afghan Project
In February 2023, Dorsey began partnering with Church World Service (CWS), a nonprofit providing assistance to a large group of Afghan asylum seekers resettling in New York and New Jersey. Dorsey assembled a team of 23 attorneys and business professionals across seven offices to provide legal assistance to eight families, providing more than 1,000 hours of assistance to this project. Assistance involved the preparation of asylum petitions and attending asylum hearing interviews. Afghan asylum seekers received expedited asylum interviews and decisions. Hearings have been granted for several of Dorsey’s clients through this program, and to date, two clients have been granted asylum.