Atlanta-based Monica Modi Khant, 43, offers legal assistance to immigrants for a better life
Back Story: Her parents emigrated from India.
Education: BA from Rutgers, JD from New England School of Law.
Profession: Executive director, Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN).
Vision: Provide legal assistance to asylum seekers and immigrant survivors of violence so they can rebuild their lives.
Monica Modi Khant’s calling was nurtured at a young age. Her father, a civil engineer, had come from India to study in the U.S. Eventually other family members followed, often moving into the Khant household in New Jersey until they got their bearings. “Over and over I saw the importance of being able to live a new life,” she says. Upon graduating from law school, she devoted herself to immigrant rights. In 2006 she took the helm at GAIN, a group that had recently been formed by Atlanta attorneys to help the area’s growing immigrant population attain legal status. GAIN’s four attorneys, along with 200-plus volunteers from private law firms, offer free assistance to asylum seekers and immigrant victims of violence, including human trafficking.
Her Legal Lessons
Be Generous With Your Expertise. Whether you’re a CPA or a tech wiz (or in PR or a chef), alert your coworkers to the needs in your community and opportunities to help. To assist refugees, you’ll be most effective if you volunteer your services through an immigration agency.
Know the Law. You may be able to legally hire noncitizens, even if they don’t have a green card. The U.S. also issues a temporary employment authorization document, typically for one year.
Protect Everyone. “Immigrants who are victims of crime that took place in the U.S. are entitled to their day in court regardless of their legal status,” says Khant.
Be Observant. If you see an immigrant who works the morning shift and the night shift and never seems to get time off, he or she may be a victim of labor trafficking. “A lot of our cases come through Good Samaritans,” she says.
Look for a Specialist. If you want to help an immigrant victim win legal status, find a law firm or non-profit that works with immigrant populations or victims of domestic violence. “It’s a close-knit community,” says Khant. “If one organization can’t help, it is probably connected to another who can.”