UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar, clinical professor of law, and director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law in University Park, served as a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Afghan Response Task Force. At this year’s 75th AILA Annual Conference, the task force received the 2022 Michael Maggio Pro Bono Award. This award is given to those who have done exceptional immigration pro bono work. Wadhia knew Maggio as her first mentor during law school and as a practicing attorney.
The Afghan Response Task Force assembled in response to the Taliban assuming control of Afghanistan after the U.S. left in August 2021. With many people in the country afraid for their lives, the AILA, an organization comprised of more than 16,000 immigration attorneys, used their expertise in immigration law to help the people in Afghanistan.
“I was honored to be part of the task force, whose work included creating and deploying resources and practice pointers for immigration attorneys; strategizing on legal options and hurdles faced by Afghans paroled into the United States; and working with coalition partners,” said Wadhia.
The Afghan Response Task Force had two co-chairs and 19 leaders. They created the Afghan Evacuation listserv, which had over a thousand AILA members ready to serve in any way they could. The AILA answered inquiries, advocated for immigration reform with the U.S. administration, attended numerous meetings in Washington, D.C., and discussed the issues on roundtables.
Wadhia said, “I am grateful to the co-chairs Mahsa Khanbabai and Parastoo Zahedi and members of the Afghan Response Task Force who together worked tirelessly to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”
Wadhia's AILA President's Commendation Award.
In addition to the Michael Maggio Pro Bono Award, Wadhia had also received the President’s Commendation for exemplary service to the president, Allen Orr, who Wadhia said has been a pioneer for AILA.
Orr said, “In recognition of her years of service to the Immigration Community and AILA, I awarded Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia a Presidential Commendation Award. She has been a guiding force in my life and it was only through her support and friendship that I became AILA's first Black president. I was able to have a successful year as President due to her volunteerism for the AILA Law Journal and her support on several committees.”
Wadhia’s history with the AILA reaches back to her first days as a practicing lawyer and she has continued to serve throughout her career. “I have been a member of AILA since I began the practice of law and am particularly grateful to have served as the inaugural Editor in Chief for the AILA Law Journal and serve AILA through committees or at conferences,” said Wadhia.
She also recognized that Penn State Law students who worked in the Penn State Law Center for Immigrant’s Rights had hands-on experience in helping Afghans locally. “Notably, dozens of Penn State Law students and alum have joined AILA and today practice immigration law all over the United States,” said Wadhia. While the task force has helped thousands of Afghans and been recognized with this recent award, they are continuing to work diligently to provide aid to Afghan individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S.