Private Bar Steps up Support for NYC Immigrants
Caprice Jenerson, Director of Pro Bono and Volunteer Unit, remembers her first week at NYLAG very well.
“Just four days after I joined, in late January, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and stopping all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. Another set of orders outlined the Administration’s plan for increased immigration enforcement, “said Jenerson. “These actions created widespread fear among New York’s immigrants. Fortunately, I learned very quickly that NYLAG and its pro bono partners are known for their ability to quickly mobilize and respond to crisis, as they did after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy.”
In the days and weeks that followed, NYLAG’s staff members were a constant presence at JFK and Newark International Airports, developed strategies for addressing the new policies, held clinics and screenings for immigrants across the City, disseminated Know Your Rights materials in several languages, and met with government and community leaders to develop a cohesive and coordinated response.
To enlist broad support from the private bar, NYLAG kicked off a Boot Camp Training series to enable more lawyers to assist undocumented immigrants in seeking a path to legal status. In a matter of weeks, five training sessions were hosted by Shearman & Sterling, Kirkland & Ellis, Greenberg Traurig, Dentons, and Proskauer. The topics included an overview of the executive orders, basic immigration law, and information about U Visas, asylum, VAWA Self-Petitions and Battered Spouse Waivers. An estimated 275 lawyers from approximately 33 big law firms, 6 corporations, 2 law schools, and a host of medium-sized law offices and solo practitioners attended one or more of the training sessions. Volunteers participated in-person or via simultaneous webcast and were eligible to receive CLE credit. Those attending the training agreed to commit to taking on full representation of immigrant clients during the 2017 calendar year.
In addition to the Boot Camp sessions, NYLAG has held three full-service asylum clinics during which 18 cases were placed with law firms and two U Visa/VAWA clinics, where law firm partners took on full representation of ten matters. The agency has organized four naturalization clinics directly reaching more than 100 immigrants. Fifteen additional full-representation, complex immigration matters were selected by individual pro bono attorneys from NYLAG’s monthly case list.
“NYLAG could not have reached so many clients without the widespread support of the City’s finest law firms, which included, in addition to our Boot Camp partners, Proskauer, Cravath, Morgan Lewis, Wilmer Hale, DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins, and Winston Strawn – all of whom stepped up to provide quality legal representation to clients who would not otherwise have access to justice,” said Jenerson. “We expect the momentum and support of our many pro bono partners to continue to build and look forward to forging new relationships as carry on this important work.”