On Thursday morning, March 10, 2016, Professor Lenni Benson, spoke to the Immigration Study Group convened by U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann.
The Study Group meets regularly to discuss ways to improve legal representation for immigrants and to improve access to counsel for indigent immigrants. Prof. Benson spoke about the justice AmeriCorps program launched in 2014 by the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Corporation for Community and National Service. The justice AmeriCorps grant authorizes its fellows to represent children under 16 who were placed into removal proceedings after October 1, 2015. There are approximately 60 fellows throughout the United States.
Safe Passage Project is one of the justice AmeriCorps grantees and is hosting two sub-grantees: the Pace Law School Community Law Project and Carecen. In total at Safe Passage Project, there are currently two attorney fellows, one law graduate fellow, two full time paralegals, and several part time paralegals working under this grant. While this program does not yet provide sufficient resources to help every child, the program is providing the basis for a study to help demonstrate that providing counsel to children can make the proceedings more efficient and effective.
The federal grant does not cover the full cost of sponsoring a justice AmeriCorps fellow. Safe Passage Project is actively seeking donors who wish to contribute to the program. The law firm of Jadeja and Cimone has generously supported an attorney fellow for two years. Prof. Benson cited their example at the Study Group meeting.