Safe Passage Project Opposes the Nomination of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General

Safe Passage Project has joined dozens of other New York organizations in a letter to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. Sessions’ confirmation vote has been pushed back to Tuesday, January 31st. The full text of the letter may be read below.

Dear Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand:

The undersigned New York-based organizations urge you to vigorously resist the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General of the United States. We hope you will consider using any and all methods available to you to prevent Senator Sessions from being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Much of New York’s vitality and prosperity is owed to the more than four million immigrants who call our State home. Together they account for a fifth of the State’s population and a quarter of its economic output. As organizations that serve New York immigrant and refugee communities, we are very disturbed by the prospect of Sen. Sessions leading the Department of Justice.

The Attorney General is the single most powerful figure responsible for this country’s immigration laws. In addition to being in charge of the nation’s immigration courts, the Attorney General is empowered to create new regulations, require particular forms of bonds or other documentation, issue new instructions, review past administrative determinations in immigration proceedings (including Board of Immigration Appeals’ decisions), amid a whole host of other duties. Sen. Sessions’ record on immigration and his affiliations with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations prove he is too extreme to be this country’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer.


Sessions has proven himself to be the most dangerous ally of the anti-immigrant movement in Congress since his election in 1996. He has received awards from the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR and has invited members of anti-immigrant organizations to testify at numerous Congressional hearings.

During his twenty-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, Sessions has consistently opposed any efforts to reform the country’s immigration laws, referring to the bipartisan 2007 bill as “terrorist assistance.” He has long been a champion for draconian immigration enforcement laws (self-deportation) that break families apart. He has railed against the DREAM Act (and DACA) and has been a fierce proponent of stripping citizenship from children born in this country to undocumented parents. Sessions has also advocated for greatly reducing legal immigration limits citing “cultural” concerns: “The numbers cannot be too great or it takes jobs from Americans and can, in fact, create cultural problems that wouldn’t occur if it was a little slower.”


Sessions has a disturbing relationship with anti-Muslim extremists and organizations. He has received numerous awards from the anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Center for Security Policy, both of which promote vicious conspiracy theories and animosity towards American Muslims. Sessions has not shied away from blaming an entire religion for the actions of few, “We need to use common sense with the who-what-where of the threat. It is the toxic ideology of Islam.”

The United States Attorney General has immense power over the lives of immigrants and refugees–Sen. Jeff Sessions’ has demonstrated through his voting record, associations with extremist organizations and his public statements that he is not the person for the job.

In addition to his views and actions impacting immigrants and Muslims, Sen. Sessions has a deeply disturbing track record on women’s rights, racial justice, voting rights, gun reform, criminal justice, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice and the rights of people with disabilities.

By any measure, Sen. Sessions is grossly unqualified to be the nation’s top law enforcement office. We urge you to publicly and loudly oppose his nomination to be Attorney General.

Safe Passage Project Joins 850+ Organizations in Affirming the Value of DACA

Safe Passage Project has joined over 850 other immigrants rights organizations nationwide in a letter sent to President Trump prior to his inauguration.

The letter details the impact and importance of the DACA program and urges the President to preserve the program for the benefit of the economy, the public, and national security. It also mentions DACA’s importance in light of the BRIDGE Act proposed by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

This is one of many ways Safe Passage Project is working to ensure the rights of immigrants under the new administration.

The original letter may be read at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s website HERE.

Shout-out to ICARE in Times editorial

On December 18, 2016 The New York Times published an editorial, “Proud to Be a Sanctuary City” that cites a “groundbreaking City Council program”. We know this program as ICARE and we are proud to be part of this program and be responsible for some of the 1,265 cases mentioned in this piece.

For the full article visit The New York Times Editorials, or here.

Letter to City Council Speaker signed by Safe Passage receives press attention

In an article published on December 7, 2016, “‘Broken windows’ policing could hand city’s immigrants over to Trump, lawyers say” Crain’s examines speculation of what life for immigrants might be like under Trump. In particular, Crain’s focuses on how the city will behave as a “sanctuary-city” and how low-level arrests might mean deportation.

The article contains the joint letter to Speaker Mark-Viverito signed by Rich Leimsider, Executive Director, on behalf of Safe Passage along with leaders from Brooklyn Defender Services, The Legal Aid Society, The Bronx Defenders, Central American Legal Assistance, The Door and Catholic Charities Community Services, who together write to say “The NYPD’s high-arrest policies thus effectively provide the federal government with ready-made lists of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers whose humanity, family and community ties, and even lawful residency, can be undermined simply because they bear the label of ‘criminal’ for the most paltry alleged offenses.”

Read the article and our letter in its entirety on Crain’s, or here.

Safe Passage honored on Jezebel, Medium & RageDonate

As an early holiday present, Safe Passage received shout outs from several different websites. Check them out here:

Jezebel with “10 More Causes That Deserve Your Time and Money on Giving Tuesday” and “A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support“.

Medium with “A Christmas Gift List for ‘Woke’ Santas and Maybe Even You

And on RageDonate

We’re very excited and humbled to receive this attention, so thank you to Jezebel, Medium and RageDonate. Check them out and join us in celebrating the buzz.

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.

Safe Passage Project Names Rich Leimsider as New Executive Director

Press Release

Safe Passage Project Names Rich Leimsider as New Executive DirectorLeimsider.Headshot

Safe Passage Project, a not-for-profit created to address the unmet legal needs of indigent immigrant youth living in New York, announced today that Rich Leimsider, a leader in the social sector, joined the organization as Executive Director effective August 8th, 2016.

Founded by New York Law School Professor Lenni Benson in 2006, Safe Passage Project assists unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings by providing them with basic legal advice and assistance. In response to the extraordinary number of unaccompanied children seeking protection within the United States and the over 15,000 cases in the New York Immigration Court, in 2013 Safe Passage expanded beyond a law school clinic to become an independent nonprofit organization hosted by New York Law School.  Today, Safe Passage serves 550+ clients with nine staff attorneys and 400+ active pro bono attorneys.  Professor Benson will continue to play a major role with the organization as both a Board Director and in a new role as Senior Advisor to Safe Passage Project on issues of Policy and Law.

Rich Leimsider is a proven social sector leader, having spent the last 15 years building systems, managing teams, and raising money at the intersection of innovation and social impact. As an independent consultant to nonprofits and foundations, he advised on strategy, board governance, and fundraising with a focus on youth-serving and criminal justice organizations. As Vice President of Fellowship Programs at Echoing Green he helped to significantly increase the scale of the flagship programs from 15 to 50 fellowships per year, led on $15MM in philanthropic funding, and launched new programs on climate change, education reform, and black male achievement.

Pam Foster, Safe Passage Project Board Chair and Managing Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, said “I am delighted to announce that Rich Leimsider has accepted our offer to become Safe Passage Project’s next Executive Director. Rich brings considerable leadership, management, strategy and fundraising skills, and a growing passion for the mission. Rich will be a wonderful new leader for Safe Passage Project and a great colleague to the Board and to the staff.”

Professor Benson noted “I am so pleased that Rich is joining our outstanding staff in building Safe Passage Project. His expertise in working with start-up nonprofits and social justice enterprise organizations will be of tremendous value as we continue to grow and work to serve immigrant children. I look forward to working with Rich and will continue to be engaged.”

“The work of Safe Passage Project to defend immigrant children at risk is more important today than ever before,” said Mr. Leimsider.  “I’m honored to have the opportunity to work alongside such incredible people and to have the chance to contribute to this mission.  I’m grateful to Lenni for building this organization, and for the fact that Lenni and the law school students will continue to be part of our service and research mission.

About Safe Passage Project

Safe Passage Project is a not-for-profit corporation created to address the unmet legal needs of indigent immigrant youth living in New York.  Safe Passage Project is currently assisting over 550 youth in removal (deportation) proceedings in the New York area. Safe Passage Project is housed within, and receives significant support from, New York Law School.  Other key support comes from the Robin Hood Foundation, the City of New York, Justice AmeriCorps, the Zegar Family Foundation, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, the Lambert Family Fund,  the Keith Haring Foundation, Jadeja and Cimone, and the Practising Law Institute. 

For more information about Safe Passage Project, call 212-324-6558, or visit


Megan Eiss-Proctor, Associate Director, Operations and Development [email protected] (917) 257-1058

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.


Lenni Benson, Professor of Law and Executive Director of Safe Passage Project, testifies in front of New York City Council

L Benson at NYC City Council l 6.27.2016

On June 27, 2016, Lenni Benson, professor of law at New York Law School and Executive Director of the Safe Passage Project, testified in front of the New York City Council in support of two pending resolutions:  Resolution 1105, seeking to support the admission of Syrian refugees, and Resolution 1097, seeking Congressional improvements to the “U Visa Status.”

Please click HERE for complete Press Release

Please click HERE for the Testimony on Resolutions for greater admissions of refugees

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