Akin Gump Pro Bono Efforts Reunite Family of Domestic Violence Survivor
In 2010, Myrna Niez, a native of the Philippines, came to the United States to marry her boyfriend, an American citizen whom she had met online and who courted her for years. She left with extended family in the Philippines her four sons, the product of her marriage to her late husband. Myrna and her boyfriend were married in New York. Quickly, she found herself trapped in an abusive relationship. Her new husband denied her keys to the apartment they shared, discouraged contact with her four sons in the Philippines, treated her like a servant and physically abused her.
After her husband punched her so hard that she was hospitalized, Myrna was referred to Akin Gump by one of the firm’s pro bono partners, HerJustice. A team effort led by Akin Gump litigation associate Kate Powers worked, first, to file an application for legal status through the Violence Against Women Act; second, to institute legal proceedings so that Myrna could get a divorce from the husband who abused her; and, finally, to reunite Myrna with her four sons.
In February 2017, these efforts all came to fruition, when Myrna and her four sons were reunited in New York. Thanks to her own work and perseverance as well as to the legal assistance offered by Akin Gump and HerJustice, Myrna is now fully documented, employed and housed.
As she noted, “I was so scared. I had no idea about the law, no friends, and no connections….I have no idea what would have happened to me without the legal help I received…I am stable now with a green card. I am so happy to be with my children. I am so grateful to my entire legal team—I became a strong person and my life is changed forever.”
Kate Powers added, “Working with Myrna has made me a better lawyer, and instilled in me a strong commitment to pro bono work. Seeing how Myrna has been helped so much by the firm, Her Justice, and the legal system, inevitably confirms what many of us do.”
To see a short film about Myrna Niez’s case, please click here.