Florida JFON, CLINIC, and Freidin Brown Law Firm Team Up for Pro Bono Citizenship Win
MIAMI, FL.—OCTOBER 24, 2019— Through the joint efforts of Attorney Whitney Untiedt, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and Florida Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) an immigrant who had been blocked from naturalization was recently—and finally — able to become a U.S. citizen.
Ms. A.L., a Haitian immigrant living in Florida, applied for citizenship in 2011. After her interview to become a citizen, the government sought to deport her because she did not update an immigration petition when her husband died in 2003.
The immigration judge presiding over her removal proceeding found the error was unintentional and granted a waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act that protected her from deportation.
Ms. A.L. applied for citizenship a second time shortly thereafter, but was once again denied. DHS claimed that while her waiver protected her from being deported, the so-called misrepresentation prevented her from obtaining citizenship.
After the final decision denying Ms. A.L.’s naturalization was issued in August of 2018, Florida JFON contacted CLINIC which in turn reached out to attorney Whitney Untiedt, who had partnered with CLINIC on pro bono cases in the past. Together, they filed a lawsuit in May of 2019 that challenged the unlawful denial of Ms. A.L.’s naturalization.
Through their joint effort, a favorable settlement was obtained and Ms. A.L. was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on September 13, 2019. “I have never been prouder to be a lawyer than the day I attended my client’s citizenship swearing-in ceremony,” said Untiedt.
On the joint effort to provide Ms. A.L. with the legal representation required to successfully overcome the obstacles of the US immigration process, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney, Bradley Jenkins said: “It took a village to get Ms. A.L. her citizenship. Justice for Our Neighbors Miami represented her for years as she tried to navigate the immigration process and received denial after denial of her application. Ms. A.L. herself took, and passed, the citizenship test multiple times. When a lawsuit became necessary to require the government to recognize the legitimacy of Ms. A.L.’s claim to citizenship, CLINIC partnered with Whitney Untiedt from Freidin Brown to bring the case.”
Whitney Untiedt has spent more than a decade serving Floridians in difficult legal matters. After working as a public defender for many years, she developed a national practice representing nonprofit organizations and low-income clients facing complex legal situations. In 2016, she was named “Lawyer of the Year” for ensuring that Florida juveniles who had been unfairly sentenced received appropriate resentencing hearings. At Freidin Brown, P.A., Whitney leads the firm’s national Whistleblower and Qui Tam practice, while also representing victims of medical malpractice and complex personal injuries throughout the state of Florida. Before joining the firm, Whitney was a partner and Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at an AmLaw 100 firm where she developed a national reputation for her work on behalf of nonprofit organizations and vulnerable clients facing complicated legal situations.
Freidin Brown, P.A. is a Miami-based law firm that focuses on medical negligence, complex personal injury, and whistleblower cases throughout Florida and the United States. With over a century of combined experience, our lawyers have dedicated their careers to obtaining justice for their clients.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, is the largest nationwide network of nonprofit immigration programs, with 380 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Programs include training and supporting immigration legal agencies, advocating for humane immigration policies and litigation on behalf of vulnerable populations, integration support, and legal representation for immigrant religious workers. CLINIC also is a partner in providing pro bono representation to detained families, and offers public education materials on immigrants’ rights and Catholic teaching on migration.
Florida Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) supports a hospitality ministry that welcomes immigrants by providing free or low-cost, expert immigration legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The organization also engages in advocacy for immigrant justice, and offers education to communities of faith and to the public. Florida JFON, part of the National JFON network, is a non-profit ministry of the United Methodist Church that provides free immigration legal aid to families in the Miami area and throughout south and central Florida and promotes education on immigration issues and advocacy for immigrant rights. The Florida JFON office is located in Cutler Bay, Florida and holds monthly clinics south of Miami at churches in Florida City and Homestead.