Denver Law Firms Help Asylum-Seekers
Attorneys offer pro bono support to asylum seekers through PASS program

by Hank Lacey
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The forests of Central America are wild places. For those who dream of a new life in the U.S., safe from oppression in their homeland, they might find a different sort of danger here. An asylum seeker from Cameroon on a trek to obtain asylum in America saw companions die from dehydration in the dense forests of Central America. It wasn’t the only peril.

“There were poisonous snakes,” he explained. “There were people in the jungle who collected money.”

Nor were expiration from venom or thirst or threats from thieves the only dangers. “Some people cannot make it,” he said. “They give up. You see your friend dying. You cannot do anything.”

His seven-month odyssey, which took him from the West African nation to safety in the U.S., was ended with the help of Denver lawyer Shalyn Kettering.

Kettering, an associate at Davis Graham & Stubbs who works in the firm’s environmental practice group, represented the Cameroonian, still grieving the loss of his wife to a car accident and his infant son to illness, in his quest for asylum.

Kettering’s work, and that of her colleagues and several staff members at DGS who donated time and talent to represent more than 70 refugees from countries on several continents as part of the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network’s Preparing Asylum Seekers for Success Program during 2019, helped the firm win RMIAN’s 2020 Pro Bono Service Award.

Created with the collaboration of the Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Immigrant Justice Campaign, the PASS Program provides pro bono representation to asylum seekers detained in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora. Four law firms — DGS, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, and WilmerHale — participate. Each of the four firms send lawyers, on a rotating basis, to assist asylees who need representation in any given week.

This complete article appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.