Camelia Ghiuzeli Mitchell, Safe Passage Project Attorney of the Week

Camelia Ghiuzeli Mitchell

Camelia Ghiuzeli Mitchell is an Associate at Baron & Shelkin, P.C., where she handles all aspects of Immigration law, including removal defense, business, waivers and family and employment based petitions. She is a graduate of New York Law School and is admitted to the bar in both New York and New Jersey. Prior to joining Baron & Shelkin, Camelia worked at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs as a program director, coordinating the public-private civic engagement initiative. She is an active member of the AILA New York Chapter and AILA NY Committee on Local Government. She is fluent in Romanian and proficient in Spanish.

Camelia started working with Safe Passage after learning about the organization from Professor Benson. When she first started volunteering at Immigration Court with Safe Passage, she didn’t completely understand how great the need for pro bono representation was — but then quickly realized that there was a large, under-served population of young people from predominantly Central America who were in need of counsel.  Because of the incredible need, Camelia decided to take on her first pro bono case with the project and successfully represented a young girl from Guatemala.

Camelia has now been involved in Safe Passage for many years and has worked on numerous cases. She regularly assists with client interviews at Immigration court, and her firm Baron & Shelkin, has taken on a number of cases, from Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to Prosecutorial Discretion.

Camelia finds working with clients from Safe Passage exceptionally rewarding and finds that she is often impressed and humbled by her client’s perseverance. She finds it inspiring to meet kids who have gone through so much and still maintain a positive outlook on life and their future.  She feels lucky to be able to help her clients navigate an otherwise complex legal system, and considers working with Safe Passage a highlight of being a lawyer. And, while Immigration cases tend to take a long time, she finds this beneficial because it helps her really get to know her clients and their families.  For Camelia, all of her Safe Passage clients have been beyond extremely appreciative and gracious. For example, one especially sweet client sent her a “Happy Valentine’s Day” text with a picture of flowers and candy.

When she is not practicing law, Camelia enjoys yoga and travelling with her husband. Her next trip will be to California wine country, which she’s very much looking forward to.

***Safe Passage Attorney of the Week Profile written by Safe Passage volunteer, Amy Zhang and Safe Passage Post Graduate Fellow, Astrid Avedissian.

Safe Passage Project on CUNY TV

Please tune in and watch a conversation with Lenni Benson discussing unaccompanied immigrant children on the Eldridge & Co. show, broadcasting on CUNY TV.

The episode will air on Cable Channel 75 and on Broadcast TV Channel 25.3 on:

  • Wednesday, August 27th at 9:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 9:00 pm
  • Thursday, August 28th at 3:00 am
  • Sunday, August 31st at 11:30am
The show will also be accessible on CUNY’s website and on YouTube.

Niños de la Frontera

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On August 14, 2014 NY immigration courts faced their first docket of immigrant children put under priority for Immigration proceedings. Dozens of children and their families appeared before an immigration judge in order to avoid deportation.

Mariela Salgado from Univision highlights the difficulty of immigrant children and their families, as they face sped up immigration proceedings in Immigrant Court.

The video highlights the work of the Safe Passage Project as an organization who helps to provide free legal services to these children. Safe Passage staff and volunteers work directly with these children, their parents and guardians to provide free legal assistance to children who cannot otherwise afford a private attorney for their case.

The Safe Passage Project thanks Univision for raising awareness of the importance of children attending their hearing date before the Immigration Judge regardless whether or not they have representation. Failure to do so could result in expedited deportation proceedings.


Lenni Benson Speaks at White House Briefing on Child Migrant Crisis

lenni white house

On August 6, Professor Lenni Benson (Director of the Safe Passage Project) addressed a White House briefing in Washington D.C. to discuss how to face the legal needs of unaccompanied alien children. Vice President Joe Biden spoke, as did representatives from AmeriCorps, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review.

The speakers addressed an audience of one hundred and twenty, with representatives from national law firms, corporations, bar associations, foundations, and non-profit organizations in attendance.

“The focus of the Vice Presidents’ address,” Benson said, “was to encourage the American people and especially law firm and corporate leaders to respond to the need for representation for the children. At the current time, there are no federal funds for this purpose.”

Biden stated that the United States has an obligation to give children who have crossed the border the opportunity to make a claim for protection.

However, he also acknowledged the difficulty of forming an adequate policy response to such a large influx of children under both international and domestic law. One of the major concerns is the exploitation that can take place on these perilous journeys across the border by smugglers and criminal organizations.

Biden has met with Central American leaders to discuss how to educate the populace and advise parents to not let their children take such risks.

Professor Benson remarked that while the Vice President recognized the need for comprehensive immigration reform, especially given his experience working in the Senate, neither he nor Ms. Munoz discussed legal alternatives for the child migrants who do not qualify for refugee status.

Other government speakers stated that the Administration is mobilizing federal funds and resources to the best of their ability. AmeriCorps will be sending Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) to support areas that are swamped with legal cases. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which detains and houses the children, announced that it will make some funds available for direct legal representation for the children who are held in detention.

Professor Benson addressed the audience to describe the Safe Passage Project and how it has partnered with the legal community to try to find attorneys for the immigrant children facing removal.

As a pro bono project housed in New York Law School, Safe Passage is organized to more adequately meet the influx of legal cases than a law school clinic, which can only take a couple of cases a year.

“We use the resources of New York Law School as the base to do mentoring and training for pro bono attorneys. With experts here at the school, we build a level of competence and awareness for expertise that goes beyond substantive law, including achieving best practices of working with a child client and appearing before administrative agencies.”

“However,” Benson pointed out, “nonprofits and law schools require financial support in order to continue these partnerships.”

After the White House meeting, a group of lawyers, including members of the ABA Commission on Immigration, pro bono coordinators, and immigration experts met at the offices of Fried Frank LLP to discuss best practices in coordinating and training lawyers. Professor Benson encouraged other organizations to use the resources of Safe Passage to help them work comprehensively and efficiently on the child migrant cases.

“I came back from Washington D.C. with more organizations asking for help,” Benson said. “Safe Passage is mobilizing to do even more training. We are also making our resources available on the web. However, our organization is completely dependent on donations to continue to meet the needs and expectations of the private bar.”

To learn more about Safe Passage, click here.
To donate, click here.


Written by Amy Zhang, Safe Passage Intern and edited by Astrid Avedissian, Safe Passage Fellow.

“If It Looks Like A Duck: Removal Proceedings and Due Process” | Alexander Weinman

August 2014. NYLS JD Candidate, Alexander Weinman, has written an article about the removal proceedings and due process entitled “If It Looks Like A Duck: Removal Proceedings and Due Process.” Click here to view the article in Google Docs or open this post to read it below.

Read more

Upcoming Event: Friday, August 22 Getting Started Representing Child Migrants

AUG22Training 2Come to the training on Friday, August 22 and learn how you can begin volunteering and partnering with pro bono attorneys. We hope you will complete this training now as the need is ever growing. This year a record number of children were apprehended at our Southern border and more than 3,500 have been released to family in the New York area. Working with Safe Passage qualifies as pro bono hours. We especially need the participation of law students who speak Spanish, but we welcome all students.


NYLS, 185 West Broadway, Auditorium


5:30 to 7:30 PM


    • Overview of who are child migrants in New York and the work of Safe Passage Project to find them representation
    • Brief explanation of forms of relief for children: Special Immigrant Juvenile, Asylum and more
    • The NY Immigration Court Workload and Screenings
    • The role of screeners and court monitors
    • The role of law students assigned to cases with attorneys — description of typical responsibilities and time commitments
    • What a pro bono attorney can expect and how to work with Safe Passage Project
    • Q and A

Click Below to Sign Up:

NYLS Students, only

Non-NYLS and Attorneys

AILA Members

Last year many of the first year students participated and found the work load manageable. There are a variety of projects: working with attorneys, attending court screenings, legal research, mentoring and assisting children as new immigrants. Our website tells you more: Our website also contains a student volunteer form; you can complete it before the training (click here).

CBP Southwest Border UAC Stats Updated Through July 31, 2014

Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Guillermo Stampur, Safe Passage Attorney, appears on Univision 11PM News


Mariela Salgado dijo, “A la espera de que el Presidente Obama use sus poderes ejecutivos para abordar la crisis en la frontera, organizaciones que Representan legalmente a niños indocumentados que estan llegando a Nueva York , alertan sobre drasticos cambios que el gobierno federal ha tomado para acelerar su‎s procesos. Advierten que ahora los menores ‎solo tienen 21 dias para llegar a la corte federal de inmigracion en manhattan, y que en muchos casos, sus guardians legales ni siquiera estan recibiendo las notificaciones de la corte.

Guillermo Stampur, “El problema con acelerar el proceso es que los ninos no tienen tiempo para preparer su caso. Es importante que se vayan a la corte porque si no se van, el juez puede ordenar un orden de deportacion que puede previnir la posibilidad de cambiar su estado en el future”

Mariela Salgado, “A partir del 13 de agosto abogados de cuatro organizaciones como Safe Passage estaran disponibles en la corte de inmigracion en manhattan.”


Lenni Benson Filmed for JDSupra Mimesis Law: “Crisis at the Border Shows Problems in US Immigration Law”

Mimesis Law | August 05, 2014 (08/01/14)

To date, up to 57,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing social unrest in Central America have tried to cross over from Mexico into the United States, flooding the immigration system and sparking a protracted humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States. Lenni Benson, professor of law at New York Law School and director of the Safe Passage Project, talks with Lee Pacchia about how the current influx of children seeking entry into the United States created such a problem for authorities and how the crisis can be resolved.

Professor Benson also talks about how many of these children do not have access to a lawyer in deportation proceedings, despite the fact that many would qualify for asylum. The Safe Passage Project works to connect legal counsel with children at the immigration courts around the country. You can learn more [here] at

CLICK HERE to watch the video

Lenni Benson Quoted in NY Times: “Advocates in New York Scramble as Child Deportation Cases are Accelerated”

Kirk Semple | August 04, 2014

Immigrant advocacy groups were rushing on Monday to prepare for special new court procedures in New York City next week that will accelerate deportation hearings for newly arrived unaccompanied children from Central America…

CLICK HERE for the article