A Helping Hand

Legal Services Aid Survivors' Road to Recovery


By Priya Pratap

December 2015


The journey towards recovery for the immigrants, refugees, and abuse survivors that we work with sometimes requires help from people beyond our staff. These people have the compassion to donate their time to assist those who come to us for help. Professor McElwain is one of these many extraordinary people.


He lists an impressive resume that speaks to his dedication, knowledge, and experience. He is currently retired, but worked as a corporate attorney for ten years in Houston, an associate at a law firm in Milan, a private practitioner specializing in immigration law in Texas, and served as the Director of Graduate & International programs at the local Pacific McGeorge School of Law for 20 years.


Professor McElwain lent a helping hand to a refugee family from the Congo while at McGeorge, which became the stepping-stone to his continued dedication to working with immigrants. This family holds a place near and dear to his heart and he maintains a friendship with them, helping them along the way and watching their children grow up in a new country. In a sense, his family grew when he met them.


He joined Opening Doors after meeting our Staff Attorney, Kishwer Barrica, who immediately recognized how valuable he would be to our Immigration Legal Services program with both his background and ability to speak Spanish fluently.


Since September, he has been volunteering a few hours of his time each week translating documents, meeting with our Spanish-speaking clients, and taking on two immigrations cases for visas, including a domestic abuse survivor and a human trafficking survivor. Kishwer boasts, “He is enthusiastic about every task and willing to learn new things.”


Being face to face with victims has opened his eyes and given deeper meaning to his work with immigrants. Realizing how much people need help, people who are not at fault, inspires him to keep devoting his time to help them. He says, “I believe in this organization’s work and I hope it stays around for a long time.”


Our pro bono program is critical to our work with refugees and victims of crime, allowing them to access high quality legal services. Pro bono attorneys fight on behalf of survivors of human trafficking and help empower them to move forward with their lives. Opening Doors offers a variety of pro bono opportunities including immigration advocacy and civil litigation.


Read other articles from December 2015:

A Pocket Full of Treasure: Pillows Made with Love

Year in Review: 2015