Last November, Joyce Ramirez, an immigration attorney in our Immigrant Legal Services department, was chosen by the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) to receive the 2017 Edward G. O’Connor Fellows Award. This honor is bestowed annually on an outstanding public service attorney who “demonstrates commitment to charitable, professional and public service activities.”
Joyce earned her JD from Duquesne University Law School, working full time and going to classes at night. She was a private attorney for a decade before moving into the non-profit sector. Since 2004, she has worked at JF&CS representing immigrants who are domestic violence or crime victims, unaccompanied alien children and people involved in “removal court” and spousal petitions.
Removal court is the process by which an individual who is at risk of being “removed” to their country of origin is given an opportunity to make their case to stay in the United States and avoid being returned to situations in which they are now strangers, have been persecuted or are in fear for their lives.
Many of these people have lived here for decades. They have spouses, children and jobs, own property and volunteer in their communities. Younger clients who were brought here as children, often called the “Dreamers,” may not even remember the country where they were born.
Every year, many individuals go to removal court without representation because they cannot afford a lawyer. By providing reduced fee services, JF&CS has made it possible for Joyce to help innumerable people to find their voice and begin rebuilding their lives. Most of all, in Joyce they have found an attorney who genuinely cares, actually listens to their story, and invests herself personally in their cases.
This is Joyce’s special gift for this work – giving her clients hope and renewing their faith in the American dream.
Over the last two decades, immigration law has become increasingly complicated and frustrating. But Joyce stays abreast of all changes to ensure that her advice will yield positive results. She is a zealous advocate for her clients and doesn’t hesitate to use every tool at her disposal to fight for their rights.
America is, at its heart, a country committed to justice for all, and Joyce Ramirez embodies that core value. JF&CS is extremely proud of Joyce and the work she’s done for our community!