Spotlight on Pro Bono: Celebrating a Citizenship Victory

Public Counsel pro bono attorney’s client Brenda V. and U.S. Representative Pete Aguilar at her citizenship swearing-in ceremony on Abril 25, 2024.

We’re excited to share a remarkable success story thanks to the incredible dedication of pro bono attorney Thomas Gibilisco and the assistance of U.S. Representative Pete Aguilar. After a challenging and prolonged process, Thomas’s client Brenda V. recently secured proof of her U.S. citizenship! Brenda’s Certificate of Citizenship application was initially denied on an incorrect ground, but with persistent efforts by Thomas and critical intervention from Representative Aguilar’s office, the process was expedited to achieve a successful result.

This case was particularly significant as it unfolded during a very difficult time for Brenda’s family; her mother was terminally ill and passed away during the process. Determined to honor her mother’s last wishes, Brenda’s older brother became the legal guardian for her and her siblings. Through investigation, it was determined that Brenda, though born in Mexico, had U.S. citizenship at birth through her U.S. citizen father and was thus eligible for certification of citizenship. After many hours of investigation and evidence gathering, and a process that spanned 15 months, Brenda received the certificate of citizenship to which she was entitled.

Brenda initially came to Public Counsel through our Peace of Mind program, which matches terminally ill parents with pro bono attorneys for joint guardianship cases. In these cases, the parent can request that the court appoint a joint guardian to step in to care for the child when the parent becomes too ill or passes away. As Brenda’s citizenship situation came to light, Thomas worked with Public Counsel’s Interim President & CEO Kristen Jackson to navigate the immigration legal landscape and citizenship process, ultimately securing a successful outcome.

Thanks to Thomas Gibilisco’s dedication, support from Representative Aguilar’s office, and Public Counsel’s cross-organizational efforts, Brenda, now a college student whose goal is a career helping others, secured critical proof of her U.S. citizenship. Without the never-ending commitment of talented lawyers like Thomas, Public Counsel simply could not do this critical work. Congratulations and thank you, Thomas!

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