Recap of World Refugee Day, June 20, 2015

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Professor Lenni Benson, founder of the Safe Passage Project, presenting about immigrants on the esplanade of Battery Park

New York, N.Y.

On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2015, The Safe Passage Project held a “walk and talk” in order to raise awareness of the plight of people fleeing appalling circumstances in their home countries. Before the walking tour began, participants met at the lobby of New York Law School, which houses The Safe Passage Project, and heard welcoming remarks from Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell and New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (pictured in the featured image), who represents District 38 in Brooklyn. They spoke of the important role refugees and immigrants in general have played in the history and development of New York City.

Dean Crowell emphasized the necessity of Safe Passage Project’s work, assisting unrepresented minors in removal proceedings in Immigration court to find pro bono legal representation. Council Member Menchaca remarked on the connection between the history of immigration in New York City and the needs and experiences of immigrants today. Also present was Professor Isabel Martinez, the director of the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY. College students participating in this project work closely with Safe Passage Project, providing ongoing interpretation services between Safe Passage clients and their pro bono attorneys.

The opening comments also included two stories, told by Justice AmeriCorps Fellow, Luisa Lebron, and Safe Passage Law Fellow, Juan Chiquillo. Ms. Lebron and Mr. Chiquillo each selected a client’s story to share with the attendees. Ms. Lebron spoke of a client, referred to as “Alejandra,” a 12­year­old girl from Honduras. “Alejandra’s” parents immigrated to the U.S., leaving her in the care of a family member, who abused and neglected her. To escape the horrific abuse she was subjected to, “Alejandra” fled to the U.S., where Ms. Lebron is currently seeking asylum for “Alejandra.” Mr. Chiquillo spoke about his client, “Jose,” who is 9 years old and also from Honduras. “Jose” was present when his father was shot and killed by gang members right outside his home. Jose was able to flee to the United States where Mr. Chiquillo represents him in his asylum claim.

After these moving stories, Professor Lenni Benson, founder and executive director of the Safe Passage Project guided a walking tour of 40 people in lower Manhattan. In the tour, Prof. Benson led people to 11 historical sites related to different groups of refugees and immigrants throughout the downtown area.

The tour’s first stop was Castle Clinton, the first official immigration inspection station in the U.S., and the last historical site visited was 26 Federal Plaza, which houses New York’s Immigration court, where Safe Passage weekly assists kids who are facing removal proceedings in Immigration court. Other stops on the tour included the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Irish Hunger Memorial, St. Paul’s Chapel and 9/11 Memorial, African Burial Ground National Monument, among others. The entire audio­tour has been recorded, and is available as a self­guided tour that can be downloaded here: www.safepassageproject.org/walk.

To learn more about Safe Passage Project, please visit the organization’s website at www.safepassageproject.org. To support Safe Passage Project, visit the website and sign­up to volunteer or to make a donation.

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