Safe Passage calls on DHS and ICE to Ensure Protections for Immigrant Survivors of Violence

Safe Passage Project has joined over 560 organizations to call on DHS and ICE to ensure that immigrant survivors of violence can access safety and protections.

The letter may be read in its entirety HERE.

Lenni Benson on WNYC

What it Means That Trump Wants to Limit ‘Unaccompanied’ Status for Minors Crossing the Borders

by Sarah Gonzalez, reporter for WNYC

Lenni Benson, Founder of Safe Passage Project 

Sarah Gonzalez discusses the potential consequences of President Donald Trump looking to limit ‘unaccompanied’ status for immigrant children. Tune in here to listen to Sarah Gonzalez interviewing Lenni Benson, founder of Safe Passage Project, and to read the full article.

Gui Stampur quoted in Youth Today Article

Safe Passage Project’s Deputy Executive Director was quoted in “Trump Administration Could Target Central American Teens” by Zach Williams. To read the whole article, please click HERE.

Safe Passage’s Alexandra Rizio in Yes! Magazine

The Woman Giving Refugee Kids Free Lawyers:

Alexandra Rizio, Defending children from deportation

Yes! Magazine featured our own Alexandra Rizio, Senior Staff Attorney, and wrote about her advocacy for immigrants and refugees.

Click here to read the full article. 

 

 

Safe Passage Project featured on NY1!

New York 1 interviewed one of our amazing clients. She courageously shared her experience as an unaccompanied minor, and her sentiments on what it was like for her to be a Safe Passage Project client.

Our Deputy Executive Director, Gui Stampur, and Director of Legal Services, Desireé C. Hernández, are also featured on this segment!

Please see below for the English and Spanish Versions of the interview:

Unaccompanied Minors Who Are Undocumented Immigrants Feel Especially Vulnerable to New Policies.

Ayudan a migrantes menores de edad para que puedan enfrentar su caso en la corte.

Rex Chen, Safe Passage Mentor Attorney, Comments on New Deportation Policy

Please see below for an English translation of the article. 

La nueva política de deportaciones será difícil de batallar en los tribunales

Las nuevas directrices migratorias en Estados Unidos convierten a todo inmigrante ilegal en objeto de expulsión. Los expertos prevén un aluvión de detenciones.

AMANDA MARS, Nueva York 22 FEB 2017 – 22:04 CET

 

Habrá juicios, detenciones, manifestaciones. También conflictos entre el Gobierno federal y esas llamadas “ciudades santuario” -Nueva York, Los Ángeles o Chicago- que hacen la vista gorda con los inmigrantes sin papeles. Pero el corazón de las nuevas directrices de la Administración de Trump sobre las deportaciones será difícil de batallar en los tribunales, al menos, por el momento: la política de prioridad en la expulsión es una potestad presidencial y, además, los documentos publicados este miércoles no especifican los procedimientos de la puesta en marcha.

“Muchas partes del memorando que hemos conocido hoy hablan de que se tiene que crear un comité para ver cómo implementan las medidas, con lo cual es muy difícil llevarlo ante un juez, porque aún no se ha puesto en marcha. Lo que pasó con el decreto del 27 de enero [el que vetaba temporalmente la entrada a los llegados de siete países de mayoría musulmana] es que el Gobierno lo puso en marcha inmediatamente y se pudo parar. Ahora hay que ver cómo todo eso entra en vigor”, explica Rex Chen, miembro de Safe Passage Project, una asociación de abogados sin ánimo de lucro de Nueva York que ayuda a los miles de menores de edad que entran cada año solos y de forma irregular.

Las directrices conocidas este viernes mantienen la protección a los llamados dreamers, jóvenes que llegaron como niños a Estados Unidos y que han crecido en el país sin papeles. Pero Chen advierte de que “esto solo significa que aún no hay una decisión tomada al respecto, Trump dijo que era un asunto muy complejo y necesitaba tiempo, pero no se sabe aún qué hará”.

Faye Hipsman, del Instituto de Política Migratoria, una organización independiente para estudio de los movimientos migratorios, recalca que detener, en bloque, las nuevas directrices “es muy difícil, aunque probablemente veremos muchos litigios, porque el presidente es el que tiene la autoridad a la hora de fijar las prioridades en las deportaciones”. Hipsman coincide con Chen en que la situación de los dreamers, los que un día fueron niños migrantes, no está clara todavía.

El principal cambio de la guía de actuación de Trump es que es esfuerzo en la detención y expulsión de los inmigrantes sin papeles -se calcula que hay unos 11 millones en Estados Unidos- ya no son aquellos con delitos a la espalda, sino que “todo el mundo en situación irregular puede ser expulsado”.

Para aquellos en situación irregular que lleven menos de dos años en el país, además, se ha abierto la puerta a las expulsiones inmediatas, sin pasar por el tribunal. El problema de un extranjero sin papeles que sea detenido será poder demostrar que lleva más tiempo en Estados Unidos y para eso es necesario tener localizados rápidamente documentos que lo justifiquen. “No creo que tengan que llevar las pruebas encima todo el tiempo, pero sí es importante que sus familiares o amigos sepan muy bien dónde están y puedan entregarlos enseguida”, apunta Chen.

Llevar a cabo las deportaciones será costoso, de momento, el departamento de Seguridad Interior ha anunciado que contratará 15.000 nuevos agentes. William A. Stock, de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración, advierte de que “el incremento masivo en detenciones requerirá miles de millones en fondos que el Congreso tendrá que imponer a los contribuyentes”, y la falta de recursos para contratar a los jueces de inmigración y los agentes de asilo “significa que el sistema se volverá más lento y disfuncional”.

Algunas organizaciones sostienen que el giro en la política de deportaciones ya se empezó a ver en las últimas semanas. Hace dos, de hecho, una operación de cinco días por parte de la agencia encargada de aplicar las leyes migratorias se saldó con centenares de detenidos en al menos seis Estados de todo el país.

 

The new deportation policy will be difficult to deal with in court.

The new immigration guidelines in the United States make any illegal immigrant subject to expulsion. Experts predict a barrage of arrests.

AMANDA MARS, New York FEB 22 2017 – 22:04 CET

 

There will be trials, detentions, demonstrations. Also conflicts between the federal government and those so-called “sanctuary cities” – New York, Los Angeles or Chicago – that turn a blind eye to undocumented immigrants. But the heart of the Trump administration’s new guidelines on deportations will be difficult to battle in court, at least for the time being: the priority policy on expulsion is a presidential power, and in addition, the documents released this Wednesday do not specify start-up procedures.

“Many parts of the memorandum that we have known today speak of a committee having to be set up to see how they implement the measures, making it very difficult to bring before a judge because it has not yet been set in motion. Decree of January 27 [the one that temporarily vetoed the arrival of the newcomers of seven countries of Muslim majority] is that the Government started it immediately and it was able to stop. Now it is necessary to see how all this enters into force,” explains Rex Chen, a member of the Safe Passage Project, a New York nonprofit law association that helps the thousands of children entering every year on their own and in an irregular manner.

The guidelines known this Friday maintain the protection of so-called dreamers, young people who arrived as children to the United States and who have grown up in the country without papers. But Chen warns that “this just means that there is still no decision made, Trump said it was a very complex matter and needed time, but it is not yet known what he will do.”

Faye Hipsman of the Institute of Migration Policy, an independent organization for the study of migratory movements, stresses that blocking the new guidelines “is very difficult, although we will probably see a lot of litigation, because the president is the one that has the authority to set the priorities in the deportations.” Hipsman agrees with Chen that the situation of dreamers, who once were migrant children, is not clear yet.

The main change in Trump’s action guide is that it is an effort to arrest and expel undocumented migrants – an estimated 11 million in the United States – are no longer those with crimes on their backs, rather “everyone in an irregular situation can be expelled.”

For those in irregular situations that have been in the country less than two years, in addition, the door has been opened to immediate expulsions, without going through the court. The problem of an undocumented foreigner being detained will be to prove that he has been in the United States for the longest time, and for that it is necessary to quickly locate documents that justify it. “I do not think they have to take the evidence on them all the time, but it’s important that family members or friends know where they are and can deliver them right away,” Chen notes.

Carrying out the deportations will be costly, so far the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will hire 15,000 new agents. William A. Stock of the American Immigration Lawyers Association warns that “the massive increase in detentions will require billions in funds that Congress will have to impose on taxpayers,” and the lack of resources to hire immigration judges and asylum agents “means that the system will become slower and more dysfunctional.”

Some organizations argue that the shift in deportation policy has already begun to emerge in recent weeks. Two days ago, in fact, a five-day operation by the immigration enforcement agency resulted in hundreds of detainees in at least six states across the country.

 

Lenni Benson, Safe Passage Founder, Quoted in The New Yorker and City Limits

Safe Passage staff and affiliates have been incredibly busy providing educational and legal clarity to immigrant communities as new announcements continue to spark fear and uncertainty throughout the city.

Among those hard at work is Professor Lenni Benson, founder, who attended a February meeting of the Brooklyn community group Darfur People’s Association. Afterwards, Benson stayed to assist Sudanese attendees in better understanding their own unique immigration situations.

Her time speaking with attendees is quoted in the article Sudanese Refugees After the Ban from the 3/6/17 edition of The New Yorker and may be read in its entirety HERE.

Benson is also quoted a recent article in City Limits, where she discusses the relationship between New York City’s record of protecting immigrant data and the Trump administration’s insistence that it will sanction municipalities who refuse to cooperate with immigration officials.

“The importance of the details matter,” Benson says. “Until the federal government articulates rules and programs and specifics, I don’t think people should stay away from safe housing because they are afraid the city would have to turn over their records.”

The 2/24/17 article, Shelter System and Other NYC Services Should Be Safe For Migrants, Experts Say may be read on the City Limits website HERE.

Attorney of the Week

The Safe Passage Project is proud to recognize Steven Kent as our Attorney of the Week! Over the past 2 years, Steven has become an invaluable part of our pro bono team. His hard work and dedication have had a profound impact on the lives of his clients, who are now on their way to obtaining legal status and achieving their dreams of leading happy, healthy lives in the United States.

Steven, a graduate of Georgetown University and St. John’s Law School, has been working at Wilson Elser in New York City for over 30 years. Steven’s legal specialties include legal malpractice defense and commercial litigation. In 2015, Steven started volunteering with Safe Passage through a program established with Wilson Elser. After learning about the incredible need for attorneys to represent child immigrants, Steven felt motivated to offer his assistance and legal experience to help further Safe Passage’s mission.

Steven found his initial experience with Safe Passage so rewarding that he decided to continue volunteering with us. Steven stated that he was really impressed with the quality of representation as well as the dedication of Safe Passage employees. To this date, Steven has represented five immigrant children with the Safe Passage Project. All of his cases have involved helping his clients obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”). One challenge that Steven said he has encountered in this work has been the language barrier, since all of his clients come from Central America and speak Spanish. He said it was a really humbling experience because in all his years of being an attorney, the ability to easily communicate with his clients was something he took for granted. He really appreciated Safe Passage’s assistance with interpreting during his client meetings, and wanted to especially thank Elizabeth and Marilyn for their time and effort with these cases.

Finally, Steven wants to encourage all attorneys to volunteer with the Safe Passage Project and get involved in immigration and asylum law. He stated that this type of work is more important now than it has ever been. He finds the work not only personally fulfilling and intellectually stimulating, but also views it as a way to use his legal skills to help the country.

Thank you Steven for your continued dedication to your clients and for setting an example for all attorneys to follow and strive for!

Safe Passage Project Press Release in Response to Immigration Policy Memos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

SAFE PASSAGE PROJECT STATEMENT ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY’S MEMORANDA IMPLEMENTING INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT AND BORDER SECURITY EXECUTIVE ORDERS

New York, NY – February 21, 2017 – Safe Passage Project is concerned that two policy memoranda dated February 20, 2017 and signed by John Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will put unaccompanied children from Central America and other countries at risk of serious harm and will prevent children from obtaining immigration relief they qualify for.

The memoranda would, for certain children, eliminate protections under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, and would subject children to the horrors of expedited removal. The memorandum entitled “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies” (the “border security memo”) suggests that the government may seek to remove the designation “unaccompanied alien child” from children who have parents or legal guardians in the United States, even if they are in fact unaccompanied at the time they cross the border and face DHS officials.

Imagine an 8-year-old who crosses our borders seeking protection. Unless she is able to convince a Department of Homeland Security officer that she has a fear of returning to her home country or intends to apply for asylum, she will be removed from the U.S. on an expedited basis. She will not have the opportunity to talk to a lawyer or see a judge; she will simply be sent back. This is an unjust process that should never be employed against a vulnerable child, and yet the memoranda propose doing just that.

The border security memo also provides that DHS may direct enforcement resources toward the parents of children who made the dangerous journey to the United States to flee violence and persecution in their countries of origin. Specifically, the memo seeks to initiate removal or even criminal proceedings against parents that have directly or indirectly assisted their children to enter the U.S.

While these provisions purport to “protect alien children from exploitation and prevent abuses of our immigration laws,” we are concerned that these policy changes will have the detrimental effect of discouraging parents from claiming their children who arrive at our borders seeking protection from violence and other abuses. It may discourage the reunification of a child with a parent or legal guardian in the United States who is available to provide adequate care. By keeping parents away from children, these policies may deprive children of caretakers who would be best positioned to care for and assist them in the preparation of their legal claims. It may also result in an increased number of unaccompanied children who are forced to remain in detention indefinitely.

Implementation of the two new policy memoranda needlessly puts vulnerable unaccompanied children and their families at risk. Parts of the memoranda purport to be aimed at the elimination of child trafficking, but in fact, the result will be increased fear and child exploitation.

 

Attorney General Issues Urgent Fraud Alert on “ICE” Immigration Scams

Please see below for the latest updates from Attorney General Scheiderman pertaining to the “ICE” Immigration Scams.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
[email protected]
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ISSUES URGENT FRAUD ALERT ON “ICE” IMMIGRATION SCAMS

Attorney General’s Alert Follows New Reports Of Fraudsters Posing As ‘ICE’ Agents, Threatening To Detain Immigrants Unless They Pay Up

Schneiderman: ICE Agents Will Never Ask For Money

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an urgent fraud alert, warning immigrant communities of potential scams in light of recent reports that fraudsters have been posing as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents scams and demanding money in order to avoid deportation. The Attorney General’s office has received an increased number of reported scams along these lines following the ICE deportation raids that have taken place over the last few days.

“It is unconscionable for scam artists to prey on heightened fear in our immigrant communities by pretending to be ICE officers and demanding that families pay up in order to avoid deportation,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I urge communities to protect themselves by learning about these potential scams – and contacting my office if they suspect fraud. We will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal and bring to justice those who commit fraud against our immigrant communities.”

The Attorney General’s office has received a number of reports of unsolicited calls or in-person inquiries from fake immigration officials. For example, one immigrant living in Queens was approached by four men dressed as ICE agents. The purported ICE “agents” told the man that he was going to be detained unless he gave them all of his money.

To report potential fraud or other issues regarding immigration services, contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or email [email protected]. The Attorney General’s office will never ask for your immigration status or share immigration information with federal authorities if you contact the Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline.

Attorney General Schneiderman also reminded immigrant communities of the New York resources available to those seeking immigration and naturalization-related support. Managed by Catholic Charities Community Services, the New Americans hotline is a toll-free, multi-lingual hotline that provides live assistance in receiving immigration and naturalization information and referrals, regardless of citizenship or documented status. All calls to the hotline are confidential and anonymous. Call 1-800-566-7636 (toll-free) anytime between 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday.

Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers of these common forms of immigration fraud:

Being Approached by Fake ICE Agents. Official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will never ask you for money or threaten detainment or deportation if you do not pay them. ICE agents also do not have the authority to enter your household without a warrant signed by a judge.

Unsolicited Calls From Fake Officials: One of the most common immigration services scams are unsolicited calls or text messages from someone claiming to be a government official or law enforcement officer that make threats such as deportation. Often times the number on caller ID may look like a legitimate government number. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will never request payment over the phone, so immigrants should be wary of scammers that ask for any sensitive or personal information, demand payment and threaten deportation if you do not comply.

Notario Fraud: In many Latin American countries a “notario” refers to someone who has the authority to render legal services. Unscrupulous “notaries” who are not attorneys often rely on this misunderstanding to exploit immigrants. They charge immigrants excessive application fees without ever submitting applications to the immigration authorities or may induce deportation by submitting applications for relief for which the immigrant is not eligible for or did not request.

Misrepresenting Legal Credentials: Individuals may falsely claim to be attorneys or wrongly suggest that they are able to appear before the immigration agencies or court. They take advantage of immigrants who will unknowingly pay exorbitant fees for their services. By misrepresenting their qualifications, these individuals can have a detrimental impact on the immigrants with whom they work. For example, immigrants who take advice from and work with these individuals may waive their right to obtain legal residency, be unnecessarily deported, or become subject to civil and/or criminal liability for the filing of false claims.

Fraudulent Promises to Expedite Process: This type of fraud concerns individuals who contend that they know employees at immigration offices who can expedite the processing of their clients applications. Accordingly, they request high fees for this special service, but fail to provide it.

Misinformation Fraud: Under this type of fraud, a provider will typically provide inaccurate or false information to the immigrant concerning his or her eligibility for an adjustment of status under a particular law. In these cases, the immigrant is usually not aware that they have been a victim of fraud until they receive a letter of ineligibility from immigration authorities. The provider knows the immigrant is not entitled to relief, or ineligible, but will file the application with immigration authorities regardless.

Immigration Affinity Fraud: Some providers target immigrants belonging to their same ethnic or racial group. Accordingly, they seek to gain advantage over other providers by claiming to identify with the ethnic, racial, national origin or community-based affiliations of the immigrant group.

Unauthorized Practice of the Law: Individuals may not be licensed to practice law but present themselves as attorneys or immigration law experts capable of providing legal advice and services.

Attorney General Schneiderman provided these key tips to avoid getting scammed:

·         Only work with a licensed lawyer or an authorized provider.

·         Never sign blank applications or documents you do not understand.

·         Do not make payments over the phone or via email.

Last month, anticipating changes to federal immigration enforcement, Attorney General Schneiderman provided local law enforcement agencies with legal guidance to protect their immigrant communities and improve public safety by becoming “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Additional resources can be found on the Attorney General’s website, including Know Your Rights: Immigration Services Fraud and Don’t Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud brochure. All authorized attorneys will be registered with the New York State Court. To verify an attorney, see here.  

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