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.

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!

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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Suffolk County Family Court Updates!

There are updates to Family Court procedures in Suffolk County, effective 01/31/2017:

1) Fingerprinting of household members is no longer a prerequisite to getting a first hearing date in Suffolk County Family Court! All cases will get calendared within 90 days of filing. Attorneys should still complete the OCFS household information, so that the court can run the necessary background checks. However, fingerprinting of household members will be at the discretion of the family court judge, on a case-by-case basis.

2) Again, Suffolk County Family Court “strongly recommends that attorneys file the OCFS with the guardianship petition. Failure to include a completed OCFS upon initial filing can cause delays and adjournments to allow for the OCFS results to come back. There is a risk that without the OCFS results, your case will be dismissed.

3) In considering whether to request fingerprinting, each judge will make determinations on a case-by-case basis, at their discretion, by considering the “totality of the circumstances.” Moreover, judges may also request home visits, which are now conducted through the probation department, but this is not a default requirement.

If you have questions, please contact your Safe Passage Project mentor attorney!

Safe Passage Project Dives into an Unprecedented Immigration Law Challenge

We are very proud and inspired by our colleagues Alex Rizio, Claire Thomas and Founder Lenni Benson for the roles they have played in response to the recent executive orders on immigration and refugees.

The following post appeared originally on New York Law School’s website. Click HERE to read it there. Since this posting, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) has been issued against key components of the executive order and is currently making its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Claire Officers

Claire R. Thomas speaking with officers at JFK January 28th.


 

It was late Friday, January 27 when their phones lit up with emails and calls. As New York Law School’s nationally recognized immigration law Professor Lenni Benson and Adjunct Professor Claire R. Thomas ’11, who lead the School’s immigration law courses, sifted through urgent notifications, they learned that dozens—possibly hundreds—of international travelers were in detention and facing deportation at JFK International Airport and other airports throughout the country. News of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order halting immigration from seven countries—Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, and Somalia—was rapidly spreading through New York City’s network of immigration lawyers.

Across campus, Professor Deborah N. Archer, who co-directs the School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, teaches its Civil Rights Clinic, and leads its Racial Justice Project, began hearing from students who were eager to help. There was barely any time to plan as the names of affected families began to trickle into Professor Archer’s Facebook and email inboxes.

NYLS has long been active in legal advocacy and representation involving the nation’s most pressing immigration law issues, which often affect New York City. This time was no different, except for the glare of international media.

By Saturday, the situation intensified. Travelers from the seven countries whose flights had been in transit when the Executive Order was signed continued to arrive at JFK Airport. Thomas threw her phone charger and a hard copy of the Immigration and Nationality Act into her bag and hopped onto the A train, bound for the airport. The Air Train was eerily devoid of travelers with luggage; instead, Thomas found herself surrounded by sign-carrying protesters. She kept Professor Benson on speed-dial.

Soon after she entered JFK Airport’s Terminal One, Thomas began fielding questions from Yemeni and Iranian families anxiously awaiting news about relatives detained after landing. She connected with representatives from the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and shared immigration law knowledge with volunteer attorneys drafting habeas petitions on behalf of those detained. Soon after, Professor Vicki Eastus and Justin Meeks 4L Evening, who are also part of the Impact Center, arrived and set to work answering family members’ questions and connecting them with attorneys. Professor Benson fielded calls all day and throughout the following night, sleeping with her cell phone under her pillow.

Meanwhile, from points throughout the city, Professor Archer and her students were relaying the names and contact information of affected families to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing many of the detainees. The group was also working closely with detainees’ relatives, including a man whose wife was refused entry to the U.S. and sent back to Qatar, where she had been visiting family. Throughout, Professor Archer and her students kept in close touch with Thomas and others at JFK Airport, performing research and rapidly proofing habeas petitions remotely.

That night, when a federal judge from the Eastern District of New York issued an order halting some portions of the Executive Order, the NYLS team scanned the first copy they could get—a photograph of the decision posted to Twitter.

Six habeas petitions and countless legal questions later, Thomas left the airport. It was around 2 a.m. on Sunday. Shortly after, she learned that one of the detainees she’d worked with, a green card holder from Iran, had finally been released. After a brief respite, the NYLS team was back at work drafting petitions and making referrals. The pace of work is unlikely to slow: news reports reveal that more than 100,000 visas have been revoked since the Executive Order was issued. ~

Safe Passage Wins 5 Year Legal Battle on Behalf of Teenage Boy

Daniel Pulla Pilco Photo 4Earlier this month, Safe Passage won Legal Permanent Residence for a young client after over 5 years of hard work in three different New York Courts. Safe Passage met Danilo in 2012, when he was just 14 years old.  Danilo’s family could not support him adequately and protect his best interest in his home country. He made the perilous journey on foot to the United States in search of safety, support, educational opportunity, and his mother.

Safe Passage went to Family Court, Immigration Court, and appeared before USCIS on behalf of Danilo in helping advocate for Danilo and his stable future in the United States. Thanks to the support of Safe Passage, Danilo has also successfully enrolled in school and is loving being a new New Yorker.

At his case closing meeting earlier this week at New York Law School, Danilo thanked his Legal Team of Jordan Harlow, Gui Stampur, Rex Chen, Stephanie Gibbs, Nillie Pajoohi, Carlos Valenzuela, Lenni Benson, Desiree Hernandez and Claire Thomas.
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