Alumni News

Photograph by Kim Lee Schmidt

It’s every parent’s greatest fear — being separated from his or her children. For some asylum seekers coming to the United States, that fear has become a reality. For families fleeing civil unrest, political persecution, violence, and other hardships, the dream of a better life in the United States can become their worst nightmare.

Clayton LaForge, L’12, has seen their anguish firsthand. Since early 2018, LaForge — who works for the firm Latham & Watkins and is based in Washington, D.C. — has dedicated his time and pro bono legal services to the reunification of asylum-seeking families separated at the border.

LaForge began his family reunification work when a colleague working as a federal public defender in Arizona contacted him for assistance in a civil case of a mother who was separated from her children prior to her credible fear interview for her claim for asylum — an act that LaForge claimed was a violation of her due process rights. Since that time, he has successfully represented several families in similar situations.

“The problem is that you’re dealing with people who don’t have the means or the access to representation [against the U.S. Department of Justice], which is why it’s important for the Bar to step up and say, ‘No more,’” LaForge said.

At Latham & Watkins, LaForge handles complex commercial litigation, securities litigation, and white-collar investigations. His background includes two federal clerkships, one with a U.S. District Court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and another with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Jackson, Mississippi. Prior to attending law school, he was on staff at the White House and interned in the clerk’s office of the U.S. Supreme Court. While his legal experience and pro bono practice — which also includes work with the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation in Mississippi and  a trial and appeal on behalf of a tenants’ association in Washington, D.C. — is extensive, LaForge finds helping to reunite families to be most rewarding.

“I’m proud of my law firm for giving me the platform to do this type of work,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever do anything that will be as personally meaningful to me as these cases. Having the ability to be a helping hand at a time when there is a lot of confusion and a lot of anger is something that I’ll always be grateful for.”