2018 New York Asylum and Immigration Conference

Save the date! Full day of CLE set with NYLS and the Federal Bar: Immigration Law Section, SDNY Chapter, and International Law Section. Three tracks of legal trainings created to help you learn to represent immigrants.

Registration open now.

Early bird prices and registration through January 31.

This year’s Immigration and Asylum Conference will take place on February 23rd at New York Law School. Designed to engage beginning attorneys, professors, and experienced lawyers, the conference will feature panels ranging from introductory and ethical discussions on immigration and asylum law to more specialized and advanced forums. The event will feature a keynote address from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. There will be tracks that focus on basic immigration, and asylum office and the court.

For more information go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-new-york-asylum-and-immigration-conference-tickets-40215587906

Protection from Deportation: Safe Passage Project Aids a 14-year-old from El Salvador

Upon reaching the border of the United States, children fleeing systematic violence, forced labor, and violent family members might imagine that our legal system would provide them with at least some assistance in navigating the complicated immigration process. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Children do have rights to legal status and family stability, but instead of ensuring that they have the help they need, our government arrests, detains, and places children in removal or deportation proceedings. No one, not even a child, is appointed a free lawyer throughout this process.

It was during these removal proceedings that one of the Safe Passage Project’s legal fellows, Alexander Holtzman, met a boy named Carlos*, now 14 years old. Carlos was arrested at the Arizona-Mexico border after a long journey fleeing the constant neglect and forced labor that he faced at the hands his extended family in El Salvador. He was eventually released to an uncle living on Long Island, but his uncle did not have the income to hire legal counsel, and did not know how to help his nephew remain in the United States.

Luckily Carlos and his Uncle met the Safe Passage Project. Our organization agreed to directly represent Carlos and guide him through the complicated process of obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (or SIJS for short), a form of legal protection that would enable Carlos to become a permanent legal resident. SIJS is a form of federal protection created by Congress to promote child welfare. Under this statute, immigrant children living in the U.S. who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by at least one parent, can apply for lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as a “green card.” SIJS is an important resource for young non-citizens. It waives circumstances that would otherwise preclude adjustment of status, such as unlawful entry, working without authorization, status as a public charge, and other immigration violations. Once the minor becomes a lawful permanent resident, he/she can eventually apply for full U.S. citizenship.

The Safe Passage Project and Carlos worked closely for months to navigate the enigmatic family court applications. Carlos’ uncle was ultimately able to qualify and serve as his legal guardian, offering Carlos the stability and safety he desperately needed. Then the Safe Passage Project prepared and obtained the necessary materials for his SIJS case, documenting the neglect and harm Carlos suffered due to his father’s physical and mental abuse, as well as the dangerous labor he was forced to endure as a young teen. Based on these findings and an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, our organization was able to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for Carlos and put an end to his removal proceedings. Carlos can now remain the United States and is on the path to full legal residence. He is currently attending high school in Long Island and, perhaps unsurprisingly, wants to study to become a lawyer.

In the United States, many children are detained and ultimately deported because they are not provided with free legal counsel in immigration proceedings. Here at the Safe Passage Project we are trying to bridge the gap between a child’s rights and the law. We have more than 400 pro-bono attorneys working on over 700 cases like that of Carlos. We are incredibly grateful for the work of our generous volunteers, but we also require financial assistance to support our work. Donations help us recruit, mentor and train additional attorneys as well as support our direct service team of legal fellows and paralegals.

Safe Passage Project is primarily funded by donations and small grants, while New York Law School generously provides us with facilities and extensive overhead support. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island also provides free office space for the use of our team. More than half of the children facing deportation in the New York City immigration court live in Nassau or Suffolk county on Long Island. There is no free legal aid inside the immigration court system, but we aim to change that. Please consider donating to support our mission. Your work can transform a child’s life.

We are seeking to raise $50,000 before the end of the year, and as of mid-December we have raised 30,000! Now is a great time to donate because our Board has generously agreed to match all donations up to that amount. Please donate today at:


*Name has been changed to protect client’s identity.


Guillermo Stampur, Safe Passage Attorney, appears on Univision 11PM News


Mariela Salgado dijo, “A la espera de que el Presidente Obama use sus poderes ejecutivos para abordar la crisis en la frontera, organizaciones que Representan legalmente a niños indocumentados que estan llegando a Nueva York , alertan sobre drasticos cambios que el gobierno federal ha tomado para acelerar su‎s procesos. Advierten que ahora los menores ‎solo tienen 21 dias para llegar a la corte federal de inmigracion en manhattan, y que en muchos casos, sus guardians legales ni siquiera estan recibiendo las notificaciones de la corte.

Guillermo Stampur, “El problema con acelerar el proceso es que los ninos no tienen tiempo para preparer su caso. Es importante que se vayan a la corte porque si no se van, el juez puede ordenar un orden de deportacion que puede previnir la posibilidad de cambiar su estado en el future”

Mariela Salgado, “A partir del 13 de agosto abogados de cuatro organizaciones como Safe Passage estaran disponibles en la corte de inmigracion en manhattan.”


Lenni Benson Filmed for JDSupra Mimesis Law: "Crisis at the Border Shows Problems in US Immigration Law"

Mimesis Law | August 05, 2014 (08/01/14)

To date, up to 57,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing social unrest in Central America have tried to cross over from Mexico into the United States, flooding the immigration system and sparking a protracted humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States. Lenni Benson, professor of law at New York Law School and director of the Safe Passage Project, talks with Lee Pacchia about how the current influx of children seeking entry into the United States created such a problem for authorities and how the crisis can be resolved.

Professor Benson also talks about how many of these children do not have access to a lawyer in deportation proceedings, despite the fact that many would qualify for asylum. The Safe Passage Project works to connect legal counsel with children at the immigration courts around the country. You can learn more [here] at https://www.safepassageproject.org/.

CLICK HERE to watch the video

Lenni Benson Quoted in NY Times: "Advocates in New York Scramble as Child Deportation Cases are Accelerated"

Kirk Semple | August 04, 2014

Immigrant advocacy groups were rushing on Monday to prepare for special new court procedures in New York City next week that will accelerate deportation hearings for newly arrived unaccompanied children from Central America…

CLICK HERE for the article

Safe Passage Project on Lawdragon: ‘Safe Passage’ Joins Students, Lawyers in Immigrant Kids’ Behalf

August 03, 2014 | James Langford interviewed Professor Lenni Benson, Safe Passage Project Director, Janet Higbie, Esq., Safe Passage Project pro bono attorney, and Gonzalo Landaverde, NYLS 2L Student and Safe Passage Project intern.

CLICK HERE for the article.

Safe Passage Project Mentioned in Businessweek Article

Immigrant Children Get Pro Bono Assist: Business of Law

By Ellen Rosen | August 01, 2014

CLICK HERE for the article


Contact the Safe Passage Project to learn how your firm can be mentored and trained in Representing Child Migrants. We have staff attorneys and volunteers who will support you in representing a child.

Or please donate to support our ability to provide support. See PayPal link.

Claire Thomas Quoted in Voices of NY Article: "Central Americans Learn About the Law"

By Nancy Ayala | July 29, 2014

… Thanks to recent trainings, Safe Passage Project, an advocacy group at New York Law School which represents unaccompanied minors in immigration court, is now working with approximately 200 pro bono attorneys.

Claire Thomas, staff attorney for Safe Passage, said in an email to Voices of NY that the number of unaccompanied children in the U.S. has increased substantially since the organization started to keep track of those figures more than two years ago. The organization is taking approximately 15 to 20 new children’s cases each month…

For the full Article CLICK HERE

New AIC Fact Sheet: “Taking Attendance: New Data Finds Majority of Children Appear in Immigration Court”

American Immigration Council | Published On: Tue, Jul 29, 2014

As the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the United States border has increased, some lawmakers have argued that children frequently fail to appear for proceedings and thus proposed mandatory detention as a solution. Some say as many as 90 percent fail to attend their immigration court hearings. Yet government data recently published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) indicates the opposite. Not only do a majority of children attend their immigration proceedings, according to TRAC, but 90 percent or more attend when represented by lawyers… http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/taking-attendance-new-data-finds-majority-children-appear-immigration-court

NY Times Article and Interactive of Interest

U.S. Considering Refugee Status for Hondurans


Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal… http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/world/americas/administration-weighs-plan-to-move-processing-of-youths-seeking-entry-to-honduras-.html

Children at the Border

HAEYOUN PARK | July 25, 2014

More than 57,000 children have been caught crossing the United States border alone since October — double last year’s number. President Obama has called the surge an “urgent humanitarian situation,” and lawmakers have called for hearings on the crisis…  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/15/us/questions-about-the-border-kids.html

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