Before Andrea Tozer joined NLSLA’s Board of Directors, she took on several pro bono cases for the organization, representing immigrants who were the victims of violence. One of those cases stands out as both particularly troubling and especially rewarding.
Her client had come to the United States to escape horrific gang violence, but found violence of a different sort when she arrived.
“She was victimized and brutalized by the man she ended up marrying here,” Tozer said. “She didn’t realize she could report him or seek legal help.” He threatened to call immigration authorities to have her deported if she ever dared to go to the hospital for her injuries or turn to the police for protection.
It wasn’t until he abused their infant son – causing significant injury – that Tozer’s client sought medical help, and was referred to Neighborhood Legal Services. NLSLA advocates immediately realized she was a good candidate for a U-Visa, a special immigration status available to victims who cooperate with authorities in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes. Tozer, an attorney with Southern California Edison Company, took the case.
“They had experienced so much trauma, and they couldn’t do anything to feel safe,” Tozer said. “I knew the adjustment of status would allow them to pursue a better life in this country without having to be afraid.”
Congress created the U-visa program to encourage immigrant victims of serious crimes to work with law enforcement while protecting them from deportation and allowing them an opportunity to begin their lives again in the United States. Tozer’s client received her U-Visa earlier this year.
Tozer has served as chair of Southern California Edison’s pro bono committee and has done a handful of U-Visa and VAWA cases for NLSLA. Tozer was so impressed with NLSLA’s work that she wanted to find a way to continue to give beyond being a pro bono volunteer so in 2018 she joined the Board. Since joining the Board, Tozer has continued her pro bono work and was named NLSLA Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year.
“But I certainly could not do any of this work without the expertise of the NLSLA staff attorneys, who know everything about everything,” she said. “They do such a good job of training those of us who don’t do this type of work as a fulltime job, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without their expertise and direction. I’m so proud of my work at NLSLA and honored to be a Board member.”