Volunteer Asylum Attorney Receives Prestigious Vermont Bar Association Service Award

April 11, 2024 0 Comments

CVRAN’s amazing pro bono lawyer Seth Lipschutz was recognized by the Vermont Bar Association for his many hours of work helping asylum seekers and refugees navigate the legal process. Read all about it in this joint press release from the Vermont Asylum Assistance Program and CVRAN!

On April 5th, the Central Vermont Refugee Action Network (CVRAN) joined the Vermont Asylum Assistance Project (VAAP) in congratulating volunteer attorney Seth Lipschutz for receiving the Vermont Bar Association’s distinguished 2024 Pro Bono Service Award. The Award recognizes the “extraordinary legal services” Attorney Lipschutz has provided to indigent asylum seekers in our community since retiring from his storied career at the Vermont Prisoners’ Rights Office in 2019.

Our organizations’ joint nomination of Attorney Lipschutz was met with an outpouring of support from former clients and peer advocates alike. Overwhelmingly, they commended Attorney Lipschutz’s intrepid approach to such a high-stakes area of law practice, leading to many asylum victories for some of Vermont’s most diverse and trauma-impacted populations. Without access to quality counsel, the American Immigration Council reports, noncitizens are exponentially less likely to assert and prevail in their claims for asylum.

Asylum is available to individuals who cannot return to their home countries because their governments can’t or won’t protect them from harm—harm inflicted because of characteristics that the individual can’t or shouldn’t have to change. This includes protection from persecution on account of individuals’ real or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or membership in certain social groups like the LGBTQ+ community. No-cost advocates like Attorney Lipschutz give asylum seekers a fighting chance to prevail in their claims and some insulation from the highly traumatizing asylum-seeking process itself.

Attorney Seth Lipschutz celebrates after receiving the Vermont Bar Association’s 2024 Pro Bono Service Award for his work with CVRAN, helping asylum seekers and refugees navigate the US legal system.

“It is difficult to fully describe what Seth did as my lawyer,” said one victorious client, whose identity is withheld for safety. “Before the meeting with the immigration officer in New York, Seth made sure to prepare me psychologically and mentally, and together we reviewed my file from beginning to end. The meeting with the immigration officer lasted six and a half hours, and Seth was by my side throughout that time and was my best support. Despite the difficulty of the file, and the long wait, Seth achieved a wonderful victory. If I had to describe Seth, I would say he is my hero.”

VAAP exists to recruit, train, and mentor volunteer lawyers like Attorney Lipschutz to feel supported in providing no-cost legal services to asylum seekers in Vermont. CVRAN and its partner organizations generate resources and advocate to meet individuals’ many non-legal, material needs throughout the process.

“Immigrants have enriched this country,” Attorney Lipschutz notes, adding that people are seeking asylum in Vermont because they are “desperate” and “afraid for their lives…No one is going to leave their home without a really good reason.” He encourages other attorneys to join him in volunteering with organizations like VAAP and CVRAN so “we can strive for our real American values.”

Visit www.vaapvt.org and www.cvran.org to learn more about supporting asylum seekers in Vermont.