Vance Center Honors 12 Law Firms at 4th Keep Families Together Awards

May 2024

On May 29, the Vance Center hosted the fourth annual awards ceremony honoring 12 law firms from Latin America for their essential contributions to the Keep Families Together initiative.

The virtual event, hosted by Human Rights and Access to Justice Program staff attorneys Romina Canessa and Astrid Reyes, recognized 12 law firms, including three firms that took on KFT cases for the first time in 2023.  

The Keep Families Together Initiative was launched in 2018 in response to the U.S Government’s Zero Tolerance Policy and has continued to expand and adapt since then to meet the needs of children and families navigating the U.S. immigration system. Through the Vance Center’s international co-counseling model, the program connects U.S. immigration counsel with lawyers in the immigrants’ home countries to address critical legal and administrative hurdles, including obtaining copies of legal and medical records; representing family members in domestic legal cases; and gathering witness statements among other types of support, often in hard-to-access areas.  

Since its creation through the end of 2023, KFT has found foreign pro bono counsel for nearly 400 migrant children and families. In doing so, it has established partnerships with nearly 150 domestic and foreign entities that accept or make those referrals, and has expanded to cover more than 31 countries around the globe. Demand for these services continues growing rapidly – as of May 2024, KFT has already processed 100 cases, putting it on track to triple the previous year’s numbers. 

Canessa and Reyes opened the event by thanking attendees and congratulating this year’s awardees. They noted the importance of the program’s international network and recounted examples of attorneys working on KFT matters going above and beyond, including traveling to remote regions to track down records, accompany children trying to escape from abusive family situations, and seeking to obtain passports for children to visit their mother in the U.S. after her cancer diagnosis.

The Vance Center attorneys then introduced Estrellita Alvarado, Safe Repatriation Manager, and Tami Benchoam Rogers, Senior Social Worker, both with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, an organization that advocates for and protects the rights of immigrant children under U.S. and international law and a KFT partner organization.

Alvarado outlined the Young Center’s initiatives to advocate for immigrant children in the United States, including unaccompanied and separated children in federal immigration custody. She explained the organization’s child’s rights paradigm, centered on the children’s safety, wishes, best interests, and other considerations, and shared how collaboration with the Vance Center enables Young Center advocates to ensure they have all the information and resources they need to support their young clients. Benchoam Rogers discussed a current case in which a pro bono team, through Keep Families Together, was able to track down information about a one-year-old child who had been adopted in the U.S., and reiterated how the collaboration with the Vance Center has supported the Young Center’s advocacy for unaccompanied and separated children.

Canessa and Reyes then introduced the awardee firms, offering each firm representative a chance to say a few words about the program.

AD Sosa & Soto Founding Partner Einar Christian Klanderud accepted the night’s first recognition on behalf of the Guatemala-based firm. He acknowledged the efforts of his colleague Ligia Cordón, who coordinates KFT requests at the firm, and expressed his hope that the firm can continue “helping out when we can.”

Partner Javier Castellán accepted the recognition for ALTA QIL+4 Abogados, marking the third year the firm has been recognized for its work with KFT. He noted the firm’s belief in the importance of ensuring access to justice for as many people as possible. “As lawyers, we are grateful that through pro bono legal support and programs, we can contribute with a fair share of our knowledge and experience that make positive impacts in those lives,” he said.

Cindy Arrivillaga, Director of Banking and Finance at regional firm Arias, one of the most active regional firms and a KFT partner since 2019, accepted on its behalf. Arrivillaga expressed her admiration for all the firms and lawyers present, who share a common belief in “the social purpose of our profession.” 

Arias was followed by another regional constant, Mayora & Mayora. Honduras-based partner Claudia Pereira accepted on the firm’s behalf, thanking the entire team that works on KFT cases and shared her hope to continue joining efforts to improve the lives of KFT families.

Senior staff member Sofia Maldonado accepted the recognition for the final Guatemala-based firm, Mollerlaw. Maldonado thanked her colleagues and program partners and committed to continue working to ensure that “every child and family has the opportunity to thrive.” 

As the requests for KFT assistance have expanded beyond Central America, the program’s network has also grown to include dozens of countries, in Latin America and beyond. That geographic expansion was reflected in the honoree firms, with the next recognition going to Pérez Bustamante & Ponce, based in Ecuador.  

Maricarmen Ponce, the director of Fundación Fabian Ponce Ordóñez, the firm’s affiliated foundation and a member of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, accepted on the firm’s behalf. Ponce noted that this year marked the fourth time the firm has received this recognition, and that “each time feels as special as the first.” She praised “this great initiative that allows us to fulfil our purpose of resolving conflicts and changing lives beyond our borders.” 

Reyes then introduced Dominican firm Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernández, adding that the firm has accepted every single referral KFT has ever sent its way. Partner Jaime Senior accepted the recognition, noting the importance of programs like KFT for the Dominican Republic, a major source of immigration to the U.S., where immigration issues tend to impact lower-income regions and communities. 

For the last section of the program, Canessa and Reyes presented several special recognitions. The first special honoree was Consortium Legal Honduras, which took the highest number of cases of any firm in 2023. Canessa observed that the firm has accepted “virtually every Honduras case we give them,” and highlighted its work as an example of the dedication of individual lawyers that makes KFT a success.  

Partner José Ramon Paz Morales accepted the recognition for Consortium Legal Honduras. He recounted that Consortium Legal lawyers worked on more than 20 KFT matters in 2023. “It is important for our firm to give a helping hand to our fellow migrants who endure different hardships,” he said, adding, “We know that a small investment of our time can make a huge difference in their lives.” 

Guatemala-based Clarity Law was also recognized during the ceremony for its contributions in 2023.

The final honors went to firms that were new to KFT but have already made a notable impact for the program. 

Benites, Vargas & Ugaz, in Peru, took its first KFT cases in 2023 and has accepted nearly all the incoming Peru matters since then. The firm’s pro bono coordinator, Liliana Calderon, accepted the recognition and conveyed the firm’s pride at being included.  

As the number of requests from Mexico continues to grow, Mexican firms have become a critical part of the KFT network, including new partner firm Sánchez Devanny. Senior Associate Verónica Esquivel-Patiño accepted for the firm, expressing gratitude for the chance to provide legal assistance to individuals navigating asylum cases, and the opportunity to partner with other lawyers and firms in the region.  

Colombian firm Medellín & Duran rounded out the new firms. Associate Adriana Medellín Cano accepted on Medellin Duran’s behalf. She said the firm was “filled with pride” to receive the recognition, which “inspires us to continue with discipline and dedication with all our social endeavors” through an alliance with Fundación Pro Bono Colombia, another member of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas.  

“We reaffirm our commitment to our country and society in general, as we understand that our role as lawyers implies a social obligation to assist and collaborate for the benefit of the most vulnerable,” she said. 

Fundación Pro Bono Guatemala director Claudia Murga, who plays an essential role in coordinating KFT cases and the network, offered a few closing remarks to conclude the evening. Murga thanked all of the participating firms and lawyers, describing the awards as a “symbolic recognition that reflects the value of your commitment to change the lives of all the migrants that have required it.”  

She encouraged the firms to continue raising their hands to assist others in need, and inspiring others to do the same: “You are setting an example of how service should be done by every professional, and we are very proud of you all.”

Watch the 2024 ceremony

Full list of 2024 honoree firms 

AD Sosa & Soto 


Arias Law  

Benites, Vargas & Ugaz 

Clarity Law  

Consortium Legal Honduras   

Headrick Rizik Álvarez & Fernández  

Mayora & Mayora  

Medellín & Duran 


Pérez Bustamante & Ponce 

Sánchez Devanny