2011 Honoree: Michael J. Ortiz
Michael J. Ortiz, Directing Attorney, Immigration Unit, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), supervises and handles matters in areas of naturalization law, and supervises staff and directly assists clients in cases arising under VAWA, asylees and refugees and victims of human trafficking and torture. Members of LAFLA's Immigration Unit have worked alongside Mr. Ortiz on behalf of low-income immigrants on various projects: from drafting comments to published USCIS Memoranda that will impact portions of the immigrant community at large, and LAFLA clients in particular, to naturalization workshops serving anywhere from a handful to hundreds of people; from receiving technical assistance from him on writing motions and appeals to co-writing them. His commitment and focus never wavers. This quiet, consistent commitment to low-income immigrants and their struggles is inspiring to others and has changed the lives of many in Los Angeles and beyond.
Award Presentation Reception
AILA Annual Meeting
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011, 8:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M.
America's Cup, B-D, Fourth Level, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
A member of the Editorial Board of Bender's Immigration Bulletin, Daniel Levy died at the age of 48 on September 14, 2001, in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. Mr. Levy was a prolific author, litigator, and scholar, and was widely known and loved by many in the immigration bar. With this annual award Matthew Bender® seeks to honor an individual who emulates the values that informed Mr. Levy's life and work:
- enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of immigrant clients;
- deep scholarship in immigration law; and
- an expansive vision of justice.
Mr. Ortiz has obtained grants and contracts to sustain LAFLA's critical work in the delivery of services to victims of domestic violence, torture, human trafficking and naturalization. He also has obtained funding for a project to provide training on a national level to legal services providers to assist human trafficking victims. He oversees and conducts training and community legal education to other attorneys, community and faith based organizations and members of the community. An excellent example of his enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of immigrant clients is the way in which he makes himself available to as much of the immigrant community as possible. Many a night he remains at the office until each and every person with an immigration question who attended LAFLA's monthly "Client Council" meeting has received the information they need. He quietly moves from answering one question to the next, not stopping to check the clock.
Mr. Ortiz has a deep understanding of every facet of immigration law. Whether a routine naturalization matter or consultation on a case before the Ninth Circuit, he is equally adept at providing concrete, invaluable assistance. He has conducted major impact litigation resulting in fundamental change in the system of processing asylum applicants. Mr. Ortiz is also extremely knowledgeable about related issues that impact immigrants such as language access, and he recently co-authored an article published in the Management Innovation Excellence For Legal Aid Journal, Volume XXIV, No. 2, Summer 2010, "Serving Immigrants as Immigrants."
Expansive Vision of Justice
Michael Ortiz believes that equal access to justice belongs to all. He devotes himself completely to every case without regard to the time he will need to sacrifice. He truly lives for the advocacy work he provides. Members of LAFLA's Immigration Unit have worked alongside Mr. Ortiz on behalf of low-income immigrants on various projects: from drafting comments to published USCIS Memoranda that will impact portions of the immigrant community at large, and LAFLA clients in particular, to naturalization workshops serving anywhere from a handful to hundreds of people; from receiving technical assistance from him on writing motions and appeals to co-writing them. Although his work varies, Michael Ortiz's commitment and focus remain the same. This quiet, but consistent commitment to low-income immigrants and their struggles is inspiring to others and has undoubtedly changed the lives of many here in Los Angeles and beyond.
Work on a local or state level
In addition to the work already mentioned above, Michael Ortiz has advocated tirelessly on the local level to provide more naturalization clinics throughout Los Angeles County. He is comfortable interfacing with leading organizations such as NALEO as well as with elected officials. He is highly respected in the community for both his knowledge and his dedication. Mr. Ortiz has litigated numerous Ninth Circuit cases which serve as precedent in California and the other states in the Ninth Circuit.
Recognition of work on a national level
In 2002, Michael Ortiz was among national experts appointed by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to a Working Group for Negotiated Rulemaking to consider amendments to 45 CFR 1626, the LSC regulations governing citizenship and alienage eligibility. The process resulted in LSC's updating its categories of eligible non-citizen clients and clarifying the eligibility of victims of human trafficking.
Additionally, under Mr. Ortiz's leadership, LAFLA's Immigration Unit has conducted pioneering work representing victims of domestic violence and has in the last decade undertaken local and national groundbreaking work to assist victims of human trafficking.
Quiet but dedicated work on behalf of clients
Those who work with Michael Ortiz feel that the characterization of "quiet but dedicated" fits him perfectly. He is tireless in his efforts to advocate on behalf of immigrants, particularly those who are low-income. Yet, he never seems to seek out attention or praise for his work, unless he is looking for funding to expand services to this vulnerable population. As Directing Attorney of the Immigration Unit, he cares more about quietly doing the work of supporting his staff and advocating for clients. Michael Ortiz is the last person to draw attention to his stellar accomplishments. This humility is what makes him such an amazing individual. Mr. Ortiz truly believes in equal access to justice for all and embodies strong advocacy. He is consistent in his willingness to help as many individuals as he can.
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