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UH Law Center to honor Houston immigrant achievements

The UH Law Center Immigration Clinic has provided free legal services to over 2000 immigrants. | Photo courtesy of Elena Hawthorne, UH Law Center

The 2019 Arrival Awards will be held Sept. 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. | Photo courtesy of Elena Hawthorne, UH Law Center

To honor achievements by immigrants in the community and raise funds to provide free legal services to immigrants in need, the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic will host the 20th anniversary Arrival Awards.

The Sept. 26 event celebrates three immigrants that have provided outstanding service to Houston and aims to promote peace and unity among all cultures with positive success stories of legal immigration.

“The Arrival Awards is to honor immigrants, their accomplishments and what they’ve done,” said Geoff Hoffman, director of the Center’s Immigration Clinic. “And also to just to recognize the real benefits that all immigrants provide to the United States.”

The honorees are Harry Gee, co-owner of the Houston Texans; Sima Ladjevardian, political activist and member of the MFAH Board of Trustees; and Lynden Rose, consul general of the Bahamas.

“The names have come to our attention because of what they’ve done in the community,” Hoffman said on how the executive committee chooses the honorees each Arrival Awards.

The Arrival Awards will feature live entertainment, including a dance event will be performed by an all-immigrant cast. Members for the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet and a live painter will perform a fusion song, dance and artistic show.

The World Affairs Council of Greater Houston will be responsible for the cultural experiences of the event. The group put inspiration from the honorees’ countries of origin into the evening’s cuisine, music and entertainment.

Law Center clinic supervisor Janet Heppard said that one of the most important reasons for the Arrival Awards is to give people hope. Heppard said that hearing the achievements of strong, resilient immigrants, like the event’s honorees, can inspire other immigrants that may be in a tough place.

“All of these people are first generation, most of these people came over here and had nothing,” Heppard said about the beginning of some immigrants’ stories. “And now they’ve built these big businesses.”

UH President Renu Khator was once an honoree at the Arrival Awards almost ten years ago for her notable contributions to UH as an immigrant from India.

“People say when you’re a woman, you’re international, you have an accent, those are three strikes against you,” Khator said in her Arrival Award video spotlight. “I have never in my life let those events minimize me, or made me feel a victim.”

The event will also honor community members called ‘Beacons of Light’ who have dedicated their professional and philanthropic work to advocate for equality and peace through supporting the clinic.

“I was very happy when we started the Immigration Clinic,” Heppard said. “There’s so much need in the community, and there’s not enough people that do it.”

In the 20 years since the Center Immigration Clinic was founded, the clinic has developed into one of the largest in the nation and has helped at no cost over 2,000 individuals who otherwise could not afford legal services.

“It’s really hard for a client to concentrate on their legal issue which is stressful in itself when there’s other stressors in their life,” Heppard said.

The clinic specializes in “handling asylum applications for victims of torture and persecution, representing victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and crime, and helping those fleeing civil war, genocide or political repression, as well as those facing other immigration-related matters in federal court.”

“We provide avenues for relief,” Hoffman said. “If there are avenues for relief then we can assist them in whatever immigration process is appropriate.”

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