Q&A With CABA President, Community Involvement

We sat down with CABA President Jeff Koh for a series of questions about our organization. Below is Part 2 of our series, Q&A with CABA President. Part 1 can be found here.

Koh_JeffreyHow does CABA “give back” to the community? Any pro bono activities?

CABA, CABA board directors and CABA members are big on community involvement and giving back to the under-represented and under-resourced in the community. On a regular and monthly basis, CABA board directors and membership provide pro bono legal services to the community at the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic.  Established in 2010 (with CABA as a co-founder), the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic works to meet the legal needs of the Chinese-American community and under-resourced communities in Chicago and the surrounding areas. More than several of our 26 CABA board directors serve on the boards of various charitable organizations in the city, including the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Asian American Bar Foundation, Chinese American Service League, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Board, etc., and CABA co-hosts and cross-advertises events with each of these partner organizations.

What APA communities do you serve? Do you serve specific ethnic groups or populations?

The two large geographic nexuses in the city, other than downtown Loop Chicago, are the Cermak-Chinatown community located south of the downtown area, and the Argyle-Little Saigon community located north of the downtown area.

While CABA is nominally Chinese, and serves the Chinese APA community, CABA has generally erred on the side of overinclusion (particularly given the extent of the Chinese diaspora and inter-marriages between communities). We have co-hosted and partnered with most APA and minority organizations in the city (such as coming out strong in support of the Muslim and Arab communities in the wake of the immigration executive orders). We have welcomed anyone with an interest in Chinese, Chinese-American, APA, legal or Chicago matters in the city to become involved with CABA.

Tell us about the relationships CABA has with other community based organizations.

Three of the biggest community-based organizations in Chicago serving our community are the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (up north in Argyle-Little Saigon), Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago (also up north) and the Chinese American Service League (south in Cermak-Chinatown.)

CABA board directors and membership serve on the Boards of each of these organizations, these organizations subscribe to CABA’s mailing list and vice versa, we co-host and cross-advertise events, and CABA remains intimately involved with and is friends with these organizations and their Executive Directors and staff.


Have a question for the president? Submit your question via Twitter @cabachicago or Facebook.

Q&A With CABA President, Professional Development

We sat down with CABA President Jeff Koh for a series of questions about our organization. Below is Part 1 of our series, Q&A with CABA President.

Koh_JeffreyTell us about CABA’s legal, educational, leadership, and professional development programs and events. What are some of the programs’ objectives, strategies, tactics, and results?

Internally, serving on CABA’s board presents a great educational, leadership and professional development opportunity for APA lawyers to gain experience and connections within the legal, APA, Chinese, Chinatown and Little Saigon communities.

This year, as part of our organizational revamp, we brought in 7 new board members, and instituted a new advisory board of 8 members. Between our current general and advisory boards, we have 26 individuals hailing from various big, mid-sized, and small law firms, government agencies, non-profits and academia.

This year we had our first board leadership retreat, and are seeking to put on further internal board development events. We are constantly spotting talent and contributors from APA communities to include them in CABA’s membership and leadership, and to build out CABA’s organizational pipeline for the future.

Externally, we believe that every CABA event presents a legal, educational and professional development opportunity, and for “cool people to get to know each other in order to do cool things together.”

Other than our general networking events, we co-host several, big targeted professional development events with other APA organizations in the city every year. These include the Minority Law Student Forum (where different APA lawyer organizations come together to coach law students with their resumes and interviewing), and the Minority Bar CLE (where we put together panels on CLEs together with minority bar organizations at a two-full-day event).

What networking functions does CABA participate in or put on itself?

CABA puts together the following networking events on its own: our big-ticket signature events, including our annual installation gala, our end-of-year holiday party, our lunar new year party, our standing monthly happy hour, and monthly volunteering whereby CABA board directors and members provide pro bono legal services to the community at the Chinatown pro bono legal clinic on a monthly basis. There are also other one-off events as they arise.

Tell us about the relationships you have with Asian Pacific American professional organizations in Chicago.

We co-host and cross-advertise with the other 4 NAPABA affiliates in Chicago, and partner with business (Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Hong Kong Business Association of the Midwest etc.), community (Asian American Bar Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chinese American Service League, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, etc.), and cultural organizations (Chinese-American Museum, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, various theaters, etc.) in the city.

CABA Board members serve on their Boards and vice-versa, and we subscribe to each other’s mailings. In particular, one of the tenets of CABA’s platform for our 30th bar year is to “bring the Loop (Chicago-downtown) to Cermak (Chicago-Chinatown)”, and given the unique geographic nexuses of Chinatown and Little Saigon, we have sought to expand our partnerships with APA organizations in Chicago.

Tell us about how CABA interacts with local APA law student and/or college groups. Any mentoring activities? Joint programming?

This year, with the help of the presidents and social chairs of all 9 Chicago-area law schools (Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, Depaul, Chicago-Kent, John Marshall, Notre Dame, Illinois, Indiana), we paired 60+ law students from all 9 law schools with CABA members in mentor-mentee pairs and host ongoing events for them to gather. They are subscribed to our organizational mailing list. We have also launched a CABA student board.

We see the mentor-mentee pairings and student board as a good pipeline for new CABA members and a good way to get law students involved early and often in APA bar organizations and build professional connections.

Have a question for the president? Submit your question via Twitter @cabachicago or Facebook.

Chicago-Based and National Bar Associations Support Local Victims of Alleged Hate Crime

CHICAGO – A coalition of Chicago-area and national Asian Pacific American bar associations expressed their support for Sufyan Sohel, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago (CAIR-Chicago), and CAIR-Chicago, victims of a series of threating calls recently charged as a hate crime.

On May 16, 2017, Sohel received a threatening voicemail on his office phone from Marvin Meyer stating, “Hey. Guess what? This is America calling. You are not welcome here… We will kill you.” His message insulted Allah and Democrats, and Meyer also asked, “Do I seem afraid of you?” This was one of four calls left at CAIR-Chicago that morning, all with a similar message.

Meyer admitted to calling Sohel and he has been charged with a felony count of a hate crime and a misdemeanor count of a telephone threat.

The Chicago-area bar associations (the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago, the Chinese American Bar Association of Chicago, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago, the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago, the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago) and the national bar associations (the National Asian Pacific America Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association North America) condemn the threatening calls and the rising level of hate witnessed around the globe against Muslim, South Asian and other minority communities. The bar associations praise the Cook County State’s Attorney Office and the Chicago Police Department for investigating the specific allegations raised by the voicemails and taking action to ensure that all residents, regardless of gender, race and national origin, feel welcome and safe in the City of Chicago.

Sohel, past president of the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago, is an American-born attorney whose parents came to this country from India. As deputy director at CAIR-Chicago, Sohel oversees the organization’s legal strategy and is a frequent speaker on social justice and civil rights issues. CAIR-Chicago is a non-profit organization that defends the civil rights or Muslim Americans through outreach, advocacy and litigation.

The bar associations urge attorneys, other legal associations and community members to help stem the rise of hate crimes by reporting incidents and seeking assistance immediately. Please visit the respective bar associations’ websites for additional information.


Download the release here.

CABA President Jeffrey Koh Honored

Congratulations to CABA President Jeff Koh who was recognized as a Rising Star by the National Immigrant Justice Center. The Rising Star Awards recognize associate attorneys who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to ensuring access to justice for immigrants by devoting substantial time to the National Immigrant Justice Center’s pro bono work, serving a significant number of NIJC clients, and representing clients with complex cases.


CABA President Jeff Koh receives the Rising Star Award from NIJC.

CABA President Jeff Koh receives the Rising Star Award from NIJC.

Justice Laura C. Liu Honored with Statue

Past CABA President Justice Laura C. Liu was honored and remembered with a statue unveiling on April 15, 2017. Many friends and family were on hand to celebrate Laura’s life on a beautiful spring day at Ping Tom Memorial Park near Chinatown. CABA Board Member Tony Shu made some introductory remarks alongside Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Laura’s husband, Michael Kasper.

And the unveiling of the statue:

Tony Shu Receives Vanguard Award

Congratulations to Board Member Tony Shu on receiving the Vanguard Award at a ceremony last week in Chicago.

Yankun Guo presents the Vanguard Award to Tony Shu. Photo courtesy of Tony Shu.

Yankun Guo presents the Vanguard Award to Tony Shu. Photo courtesy of Tony Shu.

The Vanguard Award celebrates the achievements of those individuals who have made the legal profession more accessible to and reflective of the community at large. Thank you, Tony, for being a true leader by example.

CABA Statement on Recent Executive Orders on Immigration


CABA Statement on Recent Executive Orders on Immigration

Feb. 6, 2017

          The Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (CABA) expresses its grave concerns regarding the executive orders on immigration, issued on January 25 and 27 of this year.  The Jan. 25 executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement, among other things, call for the construction of a physical wall and additional detention facilities on the southern border, seek to expedite removal proceedings under immigration law and require that individuals be detained throughout removal proceedings.   The Jan. 27 executive order blocks entry into the United States for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen for 90 days, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and indefinitely suspends entry to refugees from Syria.

          As an organization of Chinese American attorneys, descended from immigrants or immigrants ourselves, CABA has experienced first-hand the ugly history of exclusionary immigration laws in this country, and the extraordinarily harmful effects they have had on our communities.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 outlawed all Chinese immigration to the United States and denied citizenship to Chinese already in the country—the act was renewed and extended indefinitely until 1943.  The Scott Act of 1888 expanded upon the Chinese Exclusion Act, and barred Chinese from returning to the country after leaving the United States.  We reject xenophobia and nativism, and we reject discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.  We stand with immigrants and refugees, and we stand with the Mexican, Latino, Arab and Muslim communities.

          Call to Action:

·         Call your senators and representatives through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to express your views on the Jan. 25 and 27 executive orders and on immigration policy.

·         Volunteer as pro bono attorneys and translators to represent people affected by the executive orders.  The National Immigrant Justice Center provides free legal representation through volunteer attorneys for unaccompanied immigrant children, immigrant survivors of domestic abuse, low-income individuals seeking to apply for naturalization, and persons seeking asylum. It has an extensive pro bono program for attorneys as well as an interpreter corps.

·         Work to help immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers transition to life in America.  The Chinese Mutual Aid Association seeks volunteers to work with K-8 youth as part of an after school program, work with middle and high school youth as part of a group mentoring program, tutor adults in ESL, help process immigration petitions, as well as other activities designed to help immigrants and refugees transition to life in America.

·         Assist with voting rights and community advocacy in the APA community.  Asian Americans Advancing Justice seeks attorneys and law students to assist with “Know-Your-Rights” presentations in the community; legal researchers; interpreters and translators; volunteer community advocates (includes training to engage policy makers and/or speak to the media); media volunteers to take photos and videos at community events; database managers.

·         Support the work of the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic.  The Clinic seeks (1) Chinese-speaking law students or interpreters to volunteer on clinic day or on specific cases, and (2) attorney volunteers to provide advice to clients and to take pro bono cases in the areas of family law, real estate, landlord-tenant, immigration, housing, contracts and warranties, consumer fraud, employment, housing, probate, torts, collections, criminal matters, municipal and regulatory laws.

·         Visit Illinois Legal Aid Online (https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/for-legal-professionals), which maintains a calendar of events, offers online trainings, and hosts a database of volunteer opportunities.

          Other Organizations to Assist:

·         RefugeeOne (http://www.refugeeone.org/volunteer.html) is seeking people to donate cash and “Welcome Kits” or to co-sponsor refugee families. You can also employ a refugee.

·         Muslim Advocates (https://www.muslimadvocates.org/donate/) is a legal and policy organization and is seeking donations to support its litigation efforts.

·         CAIR-Chicago, a non-for-profit and the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, has created a Traveler’s Assistance Project (“TAP”) to help travelers secure legal help (http://www.cairchicago.org/tap/). It is seeking more people for its volunteer attorney corps and interpreter corps.

·         The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights (http://theyoungcenter.org/), which works with unaccompanied immigrant children, needs Child Advocates (guardians ad litem) and interpreters now more than ever.

·         The American Immigration Council (https://americanimmigrationcouncil.org/) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which works with policy makers and the general public on immigration policy advocacy, litigation, research, communications and education.

            For more information contact Jeffrey Koh at jeffrey.koh@ropesgray.com or 312-845-1386.

Formed in 1986, the Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (CABA) is the first local bar association for attorneys of Asian descent in the Chicagoland area. CABA continues to be a forum and resource for networking and learning, to organize and sponsor events of interest to its members and to provide public services to the local Chinese and Pan-Asian community.