Lenni and Claire Participate in UNICEF #ChildrenFirst Vigil

On Sunday, September 18th, Lenni and Claire participated in UNICEF’s #ChildrenFirst vigil outside the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Manhattan. During this candlelight vigil, advocates stood in solidarity with the 50 million children who are on the move worldwide and called on world leaders to put children first on the agenda during the UN’s summit on refugees and migrants.


Left to Right, Lisa Szarzkowski, Vice President of Humanitarian Emergencies and Executive Communications at U.S. Fund for UNICEF, alongside Professor Lenni Benson and Claire Thomas. Director of Training at Safe Passage Project

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IDNYC Celebrates a Year and a Half


IDNYC, a free photo ID card for ALL New Yorkers, is celebrating a year and a half of identification accessibility in New York City!

Any person who is a resident of the five buroughs may apply for and obtain an IDNYC for free, regardless of whether or not they may be homeless, youth, elderly, undocumented, formerly encarcerated, a victim of domestic violence, or transgender.

The card can be used to access all City buildings that serve the public as well as for interacting with the NYPD (a relief for people that were previously unable to obtain ID from the DMV and who relied on passports, cedulas, or simply went without identification.)

Additional IDNYC benefits include access to public libraries, free memberships to many cultural institutions, and discounts at grocery stores, movie theaters, animal shelters, and local YMCAs.

Card holders may add an emergency contact to the back of the card as well as note their primary language.

Click here to make an appointment at any site throughout the five boroughs!

Prosecutorial Discretion: An In-Depth Training Video

Safe Passage Project held an “In-Depth Training On Prosecutorial Discretion” on August 23, 2016. Rex Chen, Safe Passage Project Mentor Attorney and veteran “prosecutorial discretion” (“PD”) presenter, helped train over 40 people about seeking PD in the context of New York City Immigration Court.  Rex co-presented with Jodi Ziesemer, Supervising Attorney at Catholic Charities (Archdiocese of NY).

Rex and Jodi offered an overview of PD, practical tips, and addressed a large number of questions from the audience along with hypothetical cases.  They covered the recent change to the fingerprinting process for someone seeking PD and has never been fingerprinted before, meaning an immigrant who is brand new to the process.  Rex and Jodi also encouraged the audience to build an immigrant’s life details into a coherent story, drawing on common themes that appear in many stories and biographies that we hear and read outside the world of immigration law.

The audience of lawyers, students, and advocates were extremely involved with the presentation and raised a large number of questions, which Rex and Jodi worked to incorporate into the presentation.

Afterward, audience members felt the training was very clear and provided many practical tips.

Rex and Jodi thanked: NY City Council, NY Community Trust, and Robin Hood for funding the ICARE project. The ICARE Coalition, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, and Leslie Wagner. Dr. Alan Shapiro, Dr. Cristina Muniz, and the Terra Firma staff. Michelle Mendez. Catholic Charities staff, including Raluca Oncioiu and Jacqueline Stabnow. Safe Passage Project staff including Lenni Benson, Claire Thomas, Stephanie Gibbs, Marilyn Alvarado, and Xia Gordon. Rebecca Press, Liane Aronchick, and Jacqueline Stabnow (a second time).

Please contact Rex Chen ([email protected]) if you would like to join an email discussion about prosecutorial discretion!

You can view the full presentation here.

For those watching the video, please download the handout and the appendix of materials that we gave the audience at the following two links:

Gui Stampur, Director of Legal Services, featured in the Atlantic

In an article published on August 20, 2016, “Across the Border and Into School,” the Atlantic recent coverage continues a recent trend of media attention on the lives of unaccompanied minors. In particular, the Atlantic focuses on unaccompanied Central American minors present in the United States and their challenges in getting in enrolled consistently in school.


Gui Stampur, Director of Legal Services at Safe Passage Project, was interviewed as part of the article. “These are challenges that, unchecked, obviously impact how kids do in school—and whether they go to school at all. “I think our goal at Safe Passage is to enable kids to be kids and to focus on school, to focus on their education,” Stampur said. While most schools in the city, he said, have been good about accepting students, occasionally he has to lean on schools upstate and on Long Island to enroll the undocumented children who live there.”


Read the article in its entirety on The Atlantic, or here.

Claire presents at National Association of Counsel for Children’s annual conference

On Sunday, August 14th, Claire Thomas, Safe Passage Project’s Director of Training, presented in Philadelphia to participants of the National Association of Counsel for Children’s 39th National Child Welfare, Juvenile & Family Law Conference on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a form of immigration protection for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.

Pictured from left to right are Claire; Daniel Trujillo, one of the conference’s organizers; and Derrick Hensley, an attorney for children in North Carolina who co-presented with Claire.


Gui Stampur, Director of Legal Services, in NY Times

Director of Legal Services, Gui Stampur, quoted in today’s NY Times article by Liz Robbins entitled, “A Paradoxical Position on Youths Fleeing Violence”

To read Mr. Stampur’s statement and the entire article, please click the link below:






Lenni on NPR’s All Things Considered


Safe Passage Project’s Lenni Benson appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Professor Benson spoke with NPR’s Richard Gonzalez back in May 2016 about the Central American crisis and the EB4 backlog; the news organization aired the segment, and published a lengthy accompanying article, yesterday.

Entitled “Halt On Juvenile Immigrant Visa Leaves Thousands In Limbo,” NPR’s segment is one of the few examples of national press coverage on this critical issue. Seeking protection through Special Immigrant Juvenile status is a complex process thatunaccompanied children have to navigate, with or without counsel. The visa backlog has only made the process even more unpredictable, for children and advocates alike.

Since the announcement of the EB4 backlog in April 2016, Professor Benson has been a forceful advocate, tirelessly pushing on the local level for a sensible approach to adjudicating these young people’s claims, and on the national level for interim relief, protections, and deferred action.

LenniBenson“They don’t come to the border and say, ‘I want to apply for an I-360 based on the Fourth Preference Employment-based Special Immigrant Juvenile 101A-27J,’ ” Benson says. “They say, ‘I can’t go home!’ “

Ever articulate and thoughtful, Professor Benson seized the opportunity to shine light on the reality that so many refugee children face. Safe Passage Project is proud.


Queens Family Court Updates their System for Summonses

Queens Family Court has a new Electronic Summons Retrieval (ESR) system for obtaining summonses. Attorneys appearing in Queens Family Court should review the new instructions. This system should be accessible by attorneys after filing their initial submission in Queens Family Court, including to obtain their first appearance date.

As noted by the instructions: If you are unable to retrieve the Docket Number and Future Appearance Date after 5 days from the date of submission of your filing, please email: [email protected]

You can find the complete instructions here:

Queens_Obtaining Summons via Online System July 2016

USCIS Policy Update – I-693 Medical Exams

Great news from our district office. In short, attorneys can help their clients obtain their medical and not worry the results will expire. Safe Passage Project is also seeking confirmation from DHS Headquarters in D.C.

Recently Safe Passage Project learned that the USCIS is sending Request for Evidence (RFE) letters to attorneys and youth who filed for adjustment of status without submitting the medical exam, Form I-693. The medical exam is required of all people seeking adjust of status to lawful permanent resident. The exam must be conducted by a physician authorized by the federal government to certify that the applicant meets all of the medical standards required of new immigrants. [There is  typically a $150 fee or greater for this exam and this is fee is paid to the physician not the USCIS. There is no waiver for this fee.]

The Form I-693 advises that the results of the medical exam are valid for one year. Safe Passage Project was concerned that some of the young people who only recently filed for special immigrant juvenile status on Form I-360 (the visa petition form) would find that their medical expired before they could complete the adjustment of status process. When you file the I-360 petition, the USCIS issues a receipt and the date of the receipt becomes the young person’s “priority date” or place in line for a visa number.

The State Department has predicted a shortage of visas for children born in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras because each country has a visa cap of 672 children per year. Safe Passage Project will know more about the future backlogs in early September when the State Department sets the new cutoff dates for Special Immigrant Juveniles for the opening of the new fiscal year on October 1. It is Safe Passage Project’s best guess that children who filed the I-360 in 2016 will not complete their adjustment of status process within the next few months and the wait may be much longer.  Therefore, staff worried the medical exams would expire and children would have to return to the doctor for a second exam and pay the fee twice.

Safe Passage Project reached out to the USCIS District Office and a senior officer said it is current USCIS policy to request the medical and to complete all of the necessary evaluation of the young person’s application even though no visa numbers are currently available. In other words, USCIS will “work the cases” as if there are able to grant permanent resident status now and if a case is fully approvable they will issue a letter informing the young person that he or she does qualify for permanent residence and as soon as visa numbers are available for the young person’s priority date, they will grant permanent residence and send the “green card.”

USCIS will not require a second medical even if more than one year has passed since the original exam.

If you have more questions about the process or how to help your client schedule a medical exam or have other questions about responding to the RFE letters, please contact your mentor attorney at Safe Passage Project or write to us at [email protected].

Safe Passage Project holds training on drafting Asylum and SIJS Affidavits

Director of Training, Claire Thomas holds internal training for staff, attorneys, paralegals on drafting Asylum and SIJS Affidavits.

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