Fair Process in Name Only featuring Lenni Benson

Safe Passage Project’s Founder and Senior Advisor, Lenni Benson, was featured on Notice and Comment: A Blog from the Yale Journal on Regulation and the ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Please click here to read the full essay co-authored with Jill Family!

Safe Passage Attorney of the Month

We are proud to feature Greg Perl as our Safe Passage Project Attorney of the Month.

Greg Perl is the owner and managing partner of Perl Law where he specializes in all types of complex immigration issues.  Pro bono is an important part of Greg’s practice and he tries to always have an active pro bono case.  Over the years he has volunteered with a variety of local immigration organizations.

Greg volunteered with Safe Passage during a juvenile docket at the New York Immigration Court and took on the case of the young person he helped that day.  “We knew we had a strong case, and he was an excellent client,” Greg recalls.  “He was easy to communicate with…and was great in collecting documents from his home country.”  While the young person was eligible for both Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and asylum, they decided to pursue asylum.  Greg explains that his client was “shy, but, he was able to explain his story.  He faced serious adversity in his home country and the asylum officer was able to see that.”

Through all his hard work and preparation, Greg was able to secure asylum relief for his client.  Greg enjoys working on asylum cases and representing children in immigration court.  “They are in such a vulnerable position,” Greg explained, “My client did not have either parent in the United States to care for him.  I cannot imagine what it would feel like to move to a foreign country at such a young age without parents.”

When asked what he would say to attorneys who are thinking of taking on a pro bono case, Greg encourages attorneys to take a case as there is “plenty of need in New York.”  He added, “the staff at Safe Passage serve as an excellent resource, so even if you take on a case outside your comfort zone you will be well-guided and learn valuable skills.”

Greg is currently handling a new pro bono case on behalf of Safe Passage, in which he is pursuing SIJS for a youth who recently lost his ability to renew deferred action when the DACA program was repealed.

Thank you for doing such an amazing job Greg.  Safe Passage is proud to have such a dedicated and thoughtful pro bono partner.  We are excited to see how you are able to help your next Safe Passage client!

Safe Passage Participates in AIG Pro Bono Month

Safe Passage and AIG teamed up for a training  at AIG earlier this month to celebrate Pro Bono month. Desiree Hernandez, Alex Holtzman, Elizabeth Rivera and Gui Stampur attended. Alex and Elizabeth shared information about our work with AIG employees and Desiree conducted a training for prospective AIG Pro Bono attorneys and staff.
Safe Passage is a designated Pro Bono sponsor organization and we are grateful to AIG and all of their support. A special thanks to AIG’s Ralph Trama, Heather Shea and Deborah McNeil for inviting Safe Passage.

Lauren Blodgett featured in The Salem News

Our very own Equal Justice Works Fellow Lauren Blodgett was featured in The Salem News for her leadership in using her sports and legal expertise to help refugee children.

Click here to read the article.

White House Demands Eviscerate Protections for Children

Safe Passage Project just issued a press release in response to the White House demands rolled out Sunday night. Click here to download the PDF.

The List of Immigration Demands Eviscerates Protections for Children and Tries to Turn Back Judicially Ordered Protections

Late on a Sunday night, the Administration rolled out a list of demands on immigration principles the Administration states are necessary before Congress goes forward to create protection for those people who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But the demands take away both domestic and international rights for others. This trade of rights for some, by harming many, is a poor start to developing lasting solutions for these complex issues.

Safe Passage Project is currently aiding around 700 immigrant youth who would be facing deportation alone if our volunteers and staff did not step forward to assist them in seeking asylum or other protected status. Congress does not provide free public defenders in Immigration Court proceedings and we recruit, train, and mentor advocates to help the children navigate the complex process of seeking protection and status under existing law.

In part, the Administrations List reads like a wish list hoping for statutory fixes that will restore legal arguments the government has lost in Federal Court. For example, the list includes abrogating a twenty year settlement in the Flores case that ensures that children are not detained indefinitely, that children have a fair opportunity to seek asylum protection, and that children can ask for state and federal courts to give them a chance to explain why they cannot return safely to their country of origin. Many of the changes sought are those Congress carefully designed and put into place in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Congress must preserve these measures, not strip them away.

The Administration inaccurately and improperly states that children are “admitted illegally.” In fact, these children are apprehended, detained, and put into deportation proceedings. They are not “admitted” and given status. Further, the staff who drafted this list seem to misunderstand one of the most important protections found in U.S. law since 1990: the protection for abused, neglected, or abandoned children. The list suggests that Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a “loophole” for children to be admitted to the United States. Quite the contrary, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a carefully designed provision that balances federal regulation of immigration with state law protection of children. It is not a visa, it is a needed path to a safe haven.

These complex legal determinations cannot be made rapidly by untrained agents at the border. Frequently,children and teens are so traumatized during their journeys that it can take many hours of interviewing and building trusting relationships before a formal application can be prepared.

The UNHCR reminds us that women and children now represent over 50% of the world’s refugees. The U.S. law has provided a small measure of opportunity to seek protection. The proposals strip away these modest protections. We do not need to lock up these children. We do not need to gut their modest procedural rights. Instead, wee must preserve an opportunity for these young people to seek protection.

Safe Passage Project is proud to feature Joe Francoeur as our Attorney of the Month!

Joe is a partner at Wilson Elser where he specializes in professional liability defense, federal statutory litigation, commercial disputes and insurance coverage matters.  In 2014, Joe was appointed to his firm’s national pro bono committee; his first order of business was to find an initiative to get more attorneys involved in pro bono.  “I wanted to find a program that would offer training, oversight, and a really good cause,” Joe explained.  “My theory is that more people would get involved in pro bono, but, they are worried to step out of their comfort zones.”  Safe Passage fit the criteria and an initial training for 40 attorneys was scheduled.  Joe explained that over 189 attorneys actually showed up for that first training, demonstrating the tremendous interest within the firm.  Safe Passage is proud to now be Wilson Elser’s biggest pro bono project, thanks to Joe’s foresight and leadership.

Joe has worked on several of his own Safe Passage pro bono cases, and currently has three active cases.  Joe explained that whenever he steps out of his regular work to focus on his Safe Passage clients it is an incredibly rewarding experience.  “I know that I am making a real difference in someone’s daily life.”

In the first case Joe took with Safe Passage, his young client was reunited with a family member after being in the United States for several months.  “We had to switch course from a SIJS [Special Immigrant Juvenile Status] case to an asylum case because we learned new information about the child’s case,” Joe recalls.  “We had to adjust on the fly, but, he qualified for both – the Safe Passage team helped me strategically think through how to proceed.”  In another of Joe’s cases it seemed that procedural hurdles were too challenging to overcome.   Joe was able to work through the issues with the family court judge, advocate for his client, and ultimately secure SIJS status for his client.  As Joe explained, “The judge is going to follow the law and the case law in this instance is on our side – judges are human beings too and are really trying to do what is right.”

Joe is in charge of several pro bono initiatives at his firm, but, Safe Passage is one of his favorites as it was the first big pro bono effort with a lot of firm involvement, and it is an opportunity to provide much needed legal assistance to vulnerable children.  “I am always surprised that people have such harsh immigration views because the children Safe Passage is working with usually have more than one basis for staying legally in the United States. They are eligible for a host of protections under our US laws”

Joe feels that pro bono gives attorneys the opportunity to go from theoretical to making a real difference:  “Any attorneys reading this, thinking about pro bono, but, afraid to take the first step, with Safe Passage you do not have to worry.  They will take your hand and guide you every step of the way.  Take a case today.” According to Deputy Executive Director, Gui Stampur, “Joe is one of our most dedicated Pro Bono attorneys. His colleagues at Wilson Elser have been so supportive of our work from the beginning and we cherish our pro bono partnership and hope it will continue for many years to come.”

Thank you Joe for your commitment to Safe Passage and the children we work with.  You are an example for others to follow and we are grateful for you and your firm’s dedication to pro bono initiatives.  We look forward to continuing our strong partnership on future cases.

Desireé Hernández Featured in NBC Latino 20!

Safe Passage Project is proud to announce that our Director of Legal Services has been featured in NBC Latino 20!

According to NBC News, “The #NBCLatino20 honors achievers who are making our communities and our nation better. These honorees are fiercely proud of their heritage, which has guided their work and inspired their accomplishments. Follow their fascinating stories throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.”

We are so grateful to work with someone as passionate as her. She reminds us everyday how important it is to tirelessly advocate on behalf our clients! Congratulations Desireé!

To read the complete article, please click HERE.

Safe Passage SIJS Manual is Now Available

Safe Passage is proud to release the 2017 SIJS Manual co-authored by Alex Rizio and Gui Stampur. This manual is a step-by-step resource guide for representation of a SIJS-eligible clients. If you are a Safe Passage Pro Bono attorney, please let your Safe Passage Mentor Attorney know if you have any case-specific questions. And, if you have interest in becoming a Safe Passage Pro Bono attorney, please reach out to the Deputy Executive Director, Gui Stampur at [email protected]g


Click here to download our 2017 SIJS Manual.

Safe Passage Statement on DACA “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”

On September 5, 2017, the government announced that it will no longer accept applications for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) other than renewals for people whose work permits expire by March 5, 2018. Safe Passage Project is deeply saddened by the Administration’s decision to end new registrations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA has benefitted our nation and the United States by allowing young people to come out of the shadows and to live and work without daily fear of immigration law enforcement due to a lack of immigration papers. All of the DACA recipients came to the United States before the age of 16.  Today the New York Attorney General and 16 other states joined in suing the federal government to stop the end of this program. The suit seeks privacy protection for the nearly 800,000 young people who have DACA benefits. This includes over 50,000 New York residents. The suit also argues that the abrupt ending of this program violates the Administrative Procedural Act and denies equal protection and due process protections.

Safe Passage Project meets immigrant youth every day who deserve opportunities to seek humanitarian protection guaranteed by U.S. statutes, treaties, and regulations. We are troubled by the Administration’s actions and stand ready to defend the rights of our clients with DACA status. We also move forward with the support of our hundreds of volunteers and our able staff. Please join us in asking Congress to take action to give youth more immigration protections. Consider donating today to enable us to further our mission that no child should face deportation alone.

Lawyers representing children with DACA for Safe Passage Project should contact their mentor attorney with additional questions.

The DHS memorandum on rescinding DACA is available at: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/09/05/memorandum-rescission-daca

Cesar Vargas, Safe Passage Attorney of the Month

Cesar is an immigration rights activist and the first undocumented immigrant to be granted admission to the New York State Bar. In 2014, he began volunteering with Safe Passage as an interpreter while he and his pro bono legal team were litigating his right to be an attorney. Upon receiving his law license to practice in New York, Cesar was incredibly eager to give back.

One of the first cases he took as an admitted attorney was a Safe Passage pro bono case. Cesar feels that working with children is difficult in and of itself, but, working with children who have experienced trauma adds another layer of complexity. Cesar explained that when he first met his client it was hard to get him to open up as his client was very reserved and did not want to talk to anyone. Cesar decided to tell his client his own story of coming to the United States. “I saw my story in his story,” Cesar said. “Although his journey was more difficult crossing the border, our stories were the same in that it is a story of families reuniting.” Cesar felt that by describing what he himself had been through, his client was able to more readily confide in his attorney: “He began to trust me and was able to tell me not only his past, but his present, and his future aspirations.” Cesar explained that the case was very challenging, both legally and emotionally. He believes that the ongoing support of the Safe Passage staff, who reviewed documents and connected Cesar and his client with translators, social workers, psychologists, and subject matter experts, was a “critical ingredient for the success of the case.” Ultimately, Cesar helped his client obtain asylum, and Cesar is proud that his client now has a secure immigration status within the United States.
Cesar feels that he is still trying to find his approach as a legal practitioner after working in advocacy and politics for several years. But, no matter what, Cesar explained that pro bono will always be an integral part of his legal practice due in large part to the time people invested in supporting him in his own legal case: “Pro bono pushes your boundaries as a person, advocate, and lawyer.”

Cesar is an inspiration to the Safe Passage team and we are so proud of everything he has accomplished and will in the years to come. According to Deputy Executive Director, “Safe Passage is proud to have partnered with New York’s first undocumented attorney. Cesar is an inspiration to the organization, our clients, and is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. We are lucky to consider him part of the Safe Passage Family.”

Thank you Cesar for your unfailing dedication and hard work for your client and all the children you have worked with over the years at Safe Passage. We feel extremely lucky to have such a smart, empathetic, and dynamic pro bono advocate in our ranks. We look forward to continuing to partner with you on future cases for many years to come!

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