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Connecting Justice Communities

Sanctuary Cities: Rights of State and Local Governments in Immigration Enforcement

Posted in Immigration, PLI, Technology

In its executive orders, the Trump administration announced plans to enforce immigration law more aggressively, and recruit state and local governments to help. The plans include punishing “sanctuary cities” by withholding federal funds. What does “sanctuary” mean? And what are the rights of state and local governments to resist a role in immigration enforcement?

Sanctuary is historically a church-based movement, rooted in faith, as an assertion of a first amendment right to act in accordance with one’s religious beliefs. This is different than labeling a city or state a place of sanctuary. While some municipalities call themselves sanctuary, others call it asserting their law enforcement goals and priorities.

Understanding the Rights of State and Local Governments

To understand the rights of state and local governments in immigration enforcement, we asked Cristina Rogríguez, Professor of Law, Yale Law School. Her expertise includes constitutional law and theory; immigration law and policy; and, administrative law and process. Ms. Rodriguez cites these important strategies for localities and states that don’t want to participate:

  • Don’t sign the “287(g)” agreement. This is a federal program to deputize local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement. Municipalities are not required to participate in the program.
  • Governments need not honor ICE holds or detainers at all, or they can choose to respond only to those involving a non-citizen who has committed an offense the jurisdiction deems serious. ICE can issue a detainer notice, asking a jail to hold someone until ICE picks them up. But the jail can release a person who is otherwise eligible for release under state law. In some jurisdictions, federal courts have found continued detention beyond the state law purpose violates the person’s 4th amendment rights. Though the law is developing on this issue, a local jurisdiction could be found liable for a Fourth Amendment violation if no probable cause or warrant exists for the non-citizen in question.
  • Invoke 10th amendment Constitutional rights. States successfully challenged federal power in Printz v. U.S. (1997). The Supreme Court reviewed provisions of a federal handgun control law, and found that requiring local law enforcement officials to enforce a federal regulatory program was “fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.” States can argue that requiring state and local enforcement of federal immigration law violates the state’s sovereignty.
  • Cite limits to the spending clause doctrine. Congress can offer funds to states, and set conditions for the funding. But there are Constitutional limits to what is permissible under the spending clause. In a recent Supreme Court decision, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), States successfully challenged provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would have “punished” States by withholding all Medicaid funds if they failed to comply with the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage requirements. This and other Supreme Court precedent may help so-called “sanctuary cities” challenge a federal funding penalty for failure to enforce immigration law.

Cities, counties, and states have strong legal arguments against enforcing immigration law. They can choose to not enter into agreements with federal law enforcement, decline ICE detainer requests, and assert Constitutional rights. Advocates can support local and state policies that follow their own enforcement priorities, or seek to provide sanctuary and humane treatment to the people who live in their community.


We interviewed Cristina Rogríguez, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School and faculty member for the Practising Law Institute’s Annual Supreme Court Review, for this blog. Cristina’s research interests include constitutional law and theory; immigration law and policy; administrative law and process; language rights and policy; and citizenship theory. 

Support Immigrants in Two Easy Steps

Posted in Announcements, Immigration, Legal Services, Mobile, Resources, Technology, Website Launch

Immi - Immigrants legal resourcesAs we enter a new year and a new administration, immigrants and advocates have cause to worry. Last week’s executive orders on immigration signal real action on threats to deport large numbers of immigrants and punish the states and localities that try to protect them, among other draconian measures. Many are asking, “what can I do?” Fortunately, there’s something you can do right now to help immigrants in the U.S. learn about their immigration options, know their rights, and find quality legal help.

Step 1: Visit immi, https://www.immi.org.

Immi is a new online tool, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net. Available in English and Spanish, immi allows users to confidentially screen for immigration benefits such as family-based petitions, asylum, or U visas; access information about the law; and find a trusted nonprofit legal service provider. The first free online tool of its kind, immi was created to help as many immigrants as possible know their rights and protect their families.

Step 2: Share immi, https://www.immi.org/share.html!

An estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation may have possible avenues to legal status, but do not know it. By sharing immi you are helping to connect immigrants in your networks with free, confidential, and vital legal information.

 


About The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network
The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

 

Pro Bono Net at the 2017 TIG Conference

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Courts, Legal Services, Staff News, Technology

2017 TIG ConferenceThe 2017 Technology Initiative Grants Conference (TIG) kicks off on Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas. The TIG Conference brings together technologists, legal aid staff, courts, funders and others to explore innovative ways of using technology to promote full access to legal assistance for low-income individuals.  

Pro Bono Net will be well-represented again this year, with a cadre of our program and technology staff in attendance. We’re also presenting in workshops covering topics such as strategies to grow adoption of online forms among advocates, technology to build partnerships with non-traditional justice actors, and expanding assistance through remote services. An affinity session on Thursday will highlight the Statewide Justice Portal Initiative collaboration between the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft and Pro Bono Net, including the RFP for pilot jurisdictions.

On Friday we’ll be convening our statewide website partners for a networking session to share recent network highlights and updates on major initiatives such as the probono.net template redesign rolling out this year.

Just prior to TIG, we’re hosting a two-day training in San Antonio for legal aid, court and other staff on how to how to author interactive court forms and legal documents for LawHelp Interactive. The training is featuring instructors from Capstone Practice Systems, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), and Pro Bono Net.

Below is a schedule of panels and sessions with Pro Bono Net staff for the TIG conference:


Wednesday, 3:30pm

Preventative Law: Using Storytelling to Engage Clients Early

  • Lisa Gavin, Iowa Legal Aid
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Adam Stofsky, Briefly

Thursday, 8:30am
All Aboard with Online Forms: Getting Support from Program Leadership and Adoption by Attorneys

  • Joshua Goodwin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
  • Richard Granat, DirectLaw
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Marc Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems

Thursday, 10am
High Touch, High Tech: Innovative Non-Attorney and Non-Traditional Justice Partnerships Using Technology

  • Dianne Woodburn, JASA
  • Rochelle Klempner, New York Courts Access to Justice Program
  • Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net
  • Renee Schomp, One Justice

Thursday, 2:25pm
Using Data to Improve your Projects

  • Haydee Alfonso, Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Mary Kaczorek, Legal Services State Support
  • Jenny Singleton, Legal Services State support

Statewide Justice Portal Initiative Discussion and Technology’s Role in 100% Access Efforts (Affinity Session)

  • Lucy Bassli, Microsoft
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, LSC

Friday, 8am
LawHelp / probono.net Networking Session: What’s New and What’s Next for 2017

  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net
  • Barbara Siegel, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
  • Mary Kaczorek, Legal Services State Support

Friday, 10am
Closing the Gap: Remote Service Delivery in Action!

  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Melody Harkness, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Lillian Moy,  Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Anna Steele, Legal Assistance of Western New York

Representing Children in Immigration Matters: Effective Advocacy & Ethical Best Practices

Posted in Immigration, Legal Services, PLI, Seminar, Webinar

Representing Children in Immigration Matters screenshotIn November, the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) held an engaging seminar designed for attorneys representing children in immigration proceedings. Over the course of three panel discussions, PLI faculty and guest panelists discussed the unique challenges that they face while representing child clients. View a recording of the entire seminar HERE.

Responding to a Humanitarian Crisis

This training can be viewed in the context of the ongoing surge in Central American asylum seekers arriving at the southern border of the United States. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, over one hundred thousand ‘unaccompanied alien children’ (UACs) from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have made the treacherous journey to the United States seeking asylum or other forms of relief since the beginning of fiscal year 2014.

The arrival of so many UACs has put a spotlight on one previously overlooked immigration option known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Designed for children who have suffered from parental ‘abuse, abandonment, or neglect,’ SIJS offers children who meet the criteria a relatively simple way to gain legal status in the United States. SIJS cases go through state family court rather than the specialized immigration courts. However, the process for applying for this relief is fraught with procedural difficulties. For example, advocates for SIJS applicants must locate and present documentation (marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc.) proving the parentage of the child. This is not always an easy task, especially for children born in rural communities where marriages aren’t formally registered or orphaned children. During this panel, attorneys Jodi Ziesemer and Angela Hernandez discussed international service of process, and the different policies relating to service in Central American countries.

Profound Ethical Challenges

Professor Theo Liebmann of the Hofstra Youth Advocacy Clinic and Elizabeth Frankel from the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights led the next panel through a series of ethical scenarios that often test advocates representing immigrant children. One key dilemma was how to ensure that the child, not the attorney, is ultimately making the decisions regarding their case. This can be particularly difficult when the client has developmental disabilities that limit their ability to understand the options available to them, or is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Other common ethical quandaries involve what the advocate is required to do if they believe their client is experiencing abuse and what to do when the interests of the child and parent/guardian diverge. As the panelists explained, navigating such issues is never easy, but learning how to respond to them is key to becoming an effective advocate.

Evolving Nature of Asylum Claims

The UAC surge caught many immigration advocates off-guard; particularly those who specialize in asylum law. In one panel, Heather Axford, Staff Attorney at Central American Legal Assistance, explained how the very concept of political asylum has changed along with the influx of child asylum seekers. Most asylum seekers have traditionally been overtly political actors, like opposition politicians, human rights defenders, or journalists who had been persecuted by an established government body in their country of origin. The Central American UACs arriving at our border are often fleeing gang violence, which raises the question of whether gang intimidation and violence can constitute ‘persecution’ under asylum law. Axford argued that, for Central American UACs, political expression goes beyond traditional electoral politics. In countries where the rule of law is tenuous, where criminal organizations actually exert political power, defiance against such groups may constitute a political act.

The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center

To address the influx of UACs, the Immigration Advocates Network, in partnership with Pro Bono Net and the American Bar Association, built the Unaccompanied Children Resource Center (uacresources.org). This online tool provides free legal resources for immigrants and advocates, and helps guide attorneys to Pro Bono opportunities involving UAC clients.

Author: Peter Bogdanich is the Immigrant Youth Resources Coordinator, and AmeriCorps VISTA at the Immigration Advocates Network.


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

Pro Bono Net is at the NLADA’s 2016 Annual Conference!

Posted in Conferences, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association‘s 2016 Annual Conference starts today and Pro Bono Net is participating! The NLADA’s annual training conference provides the opportunity for those in the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities to exchange ideas and further develop their professional skills. Mark O’Brien, Sam Halpert and Mike Grunenwald will be representing Pro Bono Net at this year’s conference. Keep reading to learn more about Pro Bono Net’s participation.

Statewide Justice Portal Initiative Update and Technology’s Role in 100% Access Efforts

Thursday, 4:15 – 5:45 pm
Speakers: Glen Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation; Lucy Bassli, Microsoft; and Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net

In April, the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft, and Pro Bono Net announced a new partnership to develop up to two statewide “justice portal” pilots to designed to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options at each step of the process and more easily access solutions and services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar and community partners. The technical approach will use open standards and be open sourced to facilitate replication and contributions by other technology partners in the future. This workshop will provide an update on the project thus far, the conceptual vision for the portal and the selection process for pilot jurisdictions. We will also discuss how both existing and new technology initiatives can support the 100 percent access vision and strengthen the work of state justice communities working toward it.

 

Turning Data into Intelligence: Using the Data Our Programs Produce to Improve Services and Generate More Dollars

Friday, 2:30 – 4 pm
Speakers: Ken Smith, The Resource for Great Programs; Alex Gulotta, Bay Area Legal Aid; and Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net

Every day, our programs generate a wealth of data such as intake statistics, case outcomes data, client demographics, and on-line form user statistics. Ken Smith, President of The Resource for Great Programs, will be conducting the workshop session on this topic, joined by co-presenters Alex Gulotta, Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Aid (and chairperson of NLADA’s board) and Sam Halpert, LawHelp Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net. This session will show three examples to demonstrate to participants how their programs can turn raw data into strategic intelligence for use in program improvement and fundraising.

 

Smart Advocates Use Smart Forms: Better Advocacy through Document Automation

Saturday, 10:30 am – noon
Speakers: Josh Goodwin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services; Mark Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems; Gelnn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation

More than 40 states have forms on Pro Bono Net’s Law Help Interactive (LHI), the national automated document server. But most of those forms are targeted for client self-help, not for advocates. Document automation has been around for more than 30 years, and yet most legal services advocates are still drafting pleadings by using search and replace or cut and paste. Evaluations of LSC TIG projects have shown that advocates can reduce the time it takes to prepare forms for their cases by more than 30 percent by using automated forms for the most common practice areas. Not only that, having automated forms ensures that changes in the law are immediately reflected in the forms of every advocate. These same forms can be provided to pro bono attorneys so that they can be more comfortable representing clients outside their usual areas of practice. This session will help you develop a strategy for introducing or expanding automated forms to support the work of the advocates and pro bono attorneys for your program.

There are several other workshops of interest to legal aid and pro bono technology initiatives listed in the full agenda: http://www.nlada.org/2016AnnualConference

 


NLADANLADA is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. Their Annual Conference is the leading national training event of the year for the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities. The conference offers advocates the substantive information and professional skills they need to respond to the legal needs of low-income people, provides unparalleled opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues from across the country, and helps fulfill continuing legal education requirements.

A Court of Eight: PLI’s 18th Annual Supreme Court Review

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Seminar, Webinar

18th Annual Supreme Court ReviewThis summer, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) held its 18th Annual Supreme Court Review. PLI faculty and guest panelists came together to discuss the most recent session of the Supreme Court’s greatest takeaways, surprises and insights. These experts discussed the most recent session’s cases, merits, and how the justices came to their conclusions. They also addressed the future of the court and what they expected for the new session. One of the biggest topics on the table was, of course, the loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, and how his passing has affected the rulings of the court and its future.

Tomorrow, the Presidential Election is here, but more than just four years’ worth of policies will be decided alongside it. With the next president comes the next appointed Supreme Court Justice, the replacement for the late Justice Scalia. The next sitting president will be responsible for appointing a Supreme Court Justice who will hold the office for a good number of years. However, since several of our current sitting Supreme Court members are reaching the age in which it is common to retire from the court, the new president may have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice in the next four to eight years.

A Court of Eight Justices

18th annual supreme court erwinPractising Law Institute’s Dean Erwin Chimerinsky started the discussion of the consequences of Justice Scalia’s passing, mainly that the court is less effective without its final judge. The most important cases since Scalia’s passing, according to Dean Chimerinsky, fit a pattern that highlighted the crutch faced by the current court one justice shy of a full deck – deadlock.

We have seen several cases in which a justice crossed sides in order to sway a decision, but the lack of a ninth vote has deadlocked the court in some of the most controversial cases, forcing rulings to stand at the state level. On topics like abortion and immigration passions and partisanship are high, which can lead to a deadlocked court. Sometimes this provided a liberal outcome, and sometimes a conservative one, but either way leaves the standing ruling without commentary from the Supreme Court. Likely, these cases and issues will resurface in future sessions once the court is whole again.

An interesting result of this deadlock is a willingness in the justices to broker a compromise. The first panel of the day addressed the outcome of Zubik v. Burwell, a case on contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. When the court looked to be deadlocked once again, the justices decided on an attempt to reach a compromise, asking the two parties to work together to find an alternative solution. Once the parties agreed to continue to look for a solution, the decision was once again provided to the lower courts for specific deliberations. The attempt at brokering a solution for both parties was unprecedented, and one must wonder whether there will be more compromises suggested in future cases.

The Future of the Court

With the election comes quite a challenging atmosphere for the Supreme Court. The newest elected president might have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice who will sit on the court for more than a decade, affecting a great deal of cases. In addition, a potential continued block from Senate Republicans in a Democratic victory this election leaves the ninth seat in a state of uncertainty. Without a ruling on crucial cases that affect a great number of people in the country, and the continuing potential for a deadlocked court, it begs the question as to whether the court can continue to be as effective in future sessions without the addition of a ninth justice.

Whatever the outcome of this election and future appointees, the Practising Law Institute’s expert faculty and panelists will undoubtedly address it at next year’s review!

 


Faculty & Panelists

  • Erwin Chemerinsky
    Dean of the School of Law
    Distinguished Professor of Law Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law
  • Martin A. Schwartz
    Professor Emeritus of Law
  • Joan Biskupic
    Journalist
    Visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine, law school
  • Sherry F. Colb
    Professor of Law & Charles Evans Hughes Scholar
    Cornell Law School
  • Michael C. Dorf
    Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law
    Cornell Law School
  • Leon Friedman
    Joseph Kushner Special Professor of Civil Liberties Law
    Hofstra Law School
  • Marci A. Hamilton
    Senior Fellow, Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Burt Neuborne
    Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties, Founding Legal Director, Brennan Center of Justice
    New York University School of Law
  • Cristina Rodríguez
    Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law
    Yale Law School
  • Theodore M. Shaw
    Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law  & Director of the Center for Civil Rights
    University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill
  • Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton
    Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Jeffrey B. Wall
    Special Counsel, Co-Head Appellate Litigation Practice
    Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

National Celebrate Pro Bono Week: Bonus Profile R. Gary Higgins, Jr.

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  To wrap up our Pro Bono Week celebration, we are taking a break from our Volunteering Through Technology Initiative to bring you a bonus volunteer profile! Our bonus profile highlights the work of R. Gary Higgins with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Northshore Pro Bono Project. We are very proud to showcase the volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well.

R. Gary Higgins, Jr., Northshore Pro Bono Project Volunteer
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

R. Gary Higgins, Jr.R. Gary Higgins, Jr., a local pro bono hero from Covington, Louisiana, has been an unwavering volunteer for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ (SLLS) Northshore Pro Bono Project donating hundreds of hours to expand access to justice for vulnerable people. Gary began volunteering with SLLS while attending law school. He has continued to donate his time and talents after becoming a licensed attorney. Gary practices in the areas of family law, real estate, and successions. He is never shy about taking on new challenges and lending a hand to help people in need.

For the past year, Gary has regularly staffed SLLS’ Washington Parish Self Help Resource Center in rural Washington Parish, an area with a 26% poverty rate and no physical civil legal aid office located there.  When SLLS decided to launch a new Self-Help Desk in St. Tammany Parish in June 2016, Gary answered the call to service. He has already donated almost 30 hours to this brand new initiative.

Gary volunteered at the Give NOLA Day event in May helping to set up and staff a table as well as encouraging donations for the cause. While in law school, he volunteered over a semester doing legal research and drafting pleadings. While studying for the bar he continued to handle legal research tasks and drafted domestic pleadings and memoranda. Once admitted to practice, Gary also took on pro bono divorce and custody cases. He has volunteered at all four of SLLS’s Wills for Heroes events where wills and other estate planning documents are drafted for first responders. No task is too big or too small for Gary. Always ready to help, he has even grabbed a ladder and changed out light bulbs in our Covington office when needed!

Mr. Higgins graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in History. He then went on to law school at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he graduated magna cum laude. While attending law school, he served as a teaching assistant for legal writing as well as a senior editor on the law review.

 


SLLS LouisianaSoutheast Louisiana Legal Services offers civil legal aid to low-income people in Southeast Louisiana. Our mission is to achieve justice for low-income people in Louisiana by enforcing and defending their legal rights through civil legal aid, advocacy and community education. SLLS is Louisiana’s largest provider of free civil legal aid and works with government and public service agencies to secure justice for persons in need.

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: Citizenshipworks at Brooklyn Public Library

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Immigration, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we would like to highlight the volunteers of our Citizenshipworks Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch Clinics. Special thanks to Sandra Sandoval, Immigration Advocates Network’s Citizenshipworks Program Manager, for the article!

CitizenshipworksSince 2013, the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), in partnership with New York’s Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch, has teamed up with non-profit legal service providers around New York City to host a free, monthly citizenship application assistance workshops using the innovative Citizenshipworks platform.

Each month, partners like CUNY CitizenshipNow!, Catholic Migration Services, International Rescue Committee – New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Make the Road New York, and NALEO Education Fund provide the legal support needed via pro bono volunteers to ensure that lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship have access to free, quality legal services.

With the upcoming election there has been a sharp increase of people interested in applying for citizenship in the last year. Waiting times for appointments at nonprofit organizations in New York can be weeks or even months, leaving many people struggling to find help. These workshops give people in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs the opportunity to receive a free, quality service to help them file their form.

Others sometimes just need a push to get the ball rolling. One such individual made the decision to apply for citizenship after passing by the Info Commons at the Library and noticing the workshop in progress. She registered for the very next event to complete her form. A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen. She also brought a friend to the clinic to begin the process!

Through this innovative partnership, applicants are able to use the Citizenshipworks system to complete their N-400 and then connect with the legal service provider partners hosting the event at the library to receive a free, legal consultation. As the workshop series continues, the number of applicants has continuously grown, with Summer 2016 averaging 20 potential applicants receiving application assistance to file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and I-912, Request for Fee Waiver form (when applicable).

A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen.

To begin the process, lawful permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship register for the event through Citizenshipworks. Citizenshipworks walks the applicant through every question of the N-400 and connects them to the non-profit legal service provider prior to the event. The partner’s pro bono attorneys are able to review the applicants’ forms beforehand (checking for any potential legal issues) and help the applicant prepare for their final review the day of the event. At the event, the applicant will meet with the volunteer or BIA representative from the partner organization to complete a final review of their form before filing.

This partnership has allowed non-profit legal service providers to connect with more applicants while continuing to provide quality assistance at no cost to the applicant. Additionally, the partnership has ventured into using more innovative models to reach more applicants needing assistance.

Through the Citizenshipworks Virtual Review features and the technology provided by the library, the partner’s legal service providers and volunteer attorneys who are unable to assist in person can review the applicants form and provide a legal consultation by connecting with applicants virtually. This model has expanded not only the reach of the partnering organization, but has begun to change how legal assistance can be provided.

The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

The volunteers at these workshops are absolutely crucial to applicants by providing much needed legal services. The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

With the continued support of non-profit legal service providers and pro bono attorneys, the workshop provides access to legal services that otherwise would not be as readily available for many of the applicants. The volunteers at these clinics provide crucial services for immigrants in need, helping them through the naturalization process.

Non-profit legal service providers or pro bono attorney interested in joining this innovative partnership, should contact Sandra Sandoval, Citizenshipworks Program Manager, at ssandoval@immigrationadvocates.org for more information.

 


CitzenshipworksCitizenshipworks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net. We aim to make the immigration system accessible everyone through user-friendly technology, plain language legal information, and a national network of nonprofit immigration service providers.


The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.


 

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: LiveHelp with Joan Archer

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting Joan Archer, a LiveHelp Volunteer at LawHelpNY, and the NYC Pro Bono Center‘s October Volunteer Spotlight! We would like to extend special thanks to Michelle Born, LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp Co-ordinator, for sharing this story.

Joan Archer, LiveHelp Volunteer
LawHelpNY

Joan Archer“Joan saves the day!” This was a frequent phrase in my emails to Joan Archer over the course of the last year. As LiveHelp Coordinator at LawHelpNY, I work with dozens of law student and law graduate volunteers at any given point in time. Joan has been a dream volunteer.

Joan Archer began her work as a LiveHelp operator with LawHelpNY shortly after completing the New York Bar exam in July 2015 and before resuming her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February 2016.

She had already completed the 50-hour pro bono requirement for New York State through her judicial internships, and she had plenty to keep her occupied with two young children at home, but she wanted to stretch herself while also giving back to the community. LawHelpNY/Pro Bono Net in particular was attractive to Joan: “Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

“LawHelpNY sounded like a progressive organization in terms of using technology to make legal information accessible to people who don’t know where to go. I wanted to see how it worked and also hopefully point a few people in the right direction.” Joan attended a LiveHelp training at her alma mater, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and eagerly signed up for several weekly shifts.

Joan took on her work as a LiveHelp operator with the same enthusiasm I have since realized that she brings to any challenge. When asked what she enjoyed about the experience, Joan replied, “I love hearing about all the different issues people are facing – and the issues are all over the place.”

“I see LiveHelpNY volunteers as EMTs for law, doing legal triage. Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.  For example, I recently heard from a woman who was applying for jobs with nanny agencies in New York City but was being turned down because she had a criminal conviction.” It was the caller who mentioned the Fair Chance Act, and Joan quickly read up on the law and provided the caller with relevant referrals.

“During training, we touched on divorce, domestic violence, foreclosures, and landlord tenant issues, and I’ve definitely seen those but I’ve also seen international patent disputes, corruption claims, claims involving farm animals, and internet fraud/stalking/invasion of privacy claims.”

When asked what she found challenging about the experience, Joan noted that it is hard not knowing the outcome for people she assists via LiveHelp.  “I’d love to know what happens with the people I chat with – if any of the phone numbers or information I gave them wound up helping them get what they need. For example, I got an email from a veteran who was homeless and living in a shelter for veterans in New York City. The shelter provides short term housing and he was looking for permanent housing. I did a lot of research on programs for veterans. I found some programs that sounded like they might help, but was left wondering how much of a runaround he was going to face and wishing I could do more.”

Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.”

After several months of volunteering as a LiveHelp operator, Joan signed off to focus on her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February. I heard from her shortly after, when she sent me an email with the magic words: “Reach out to me any time you need coverage!” Joan became my go-to person whenever I had a last-minute cancellation, or exams took many of my regularly scheduled volunteers away. Yet, I was keenly aware that Joan had much more to offer LawHelpNY.

Before attending law school, Joan had worked many years as a software developer and coder in prominent companies such as Merrill Lynch, as well as tech start-ups. When I approached her with a request to help as we transitioned the software through which we operated LiveHelp, she jumped at the chance. She was later instrumental in setting up a system through which to manage and track the many emails that come in to LawHelpNY requesting legal information.

Joan continues to make herself available to LawHelpNY, even while becoming certified as a FINRA arbitrator, taking on paid tech projects, serving on the town’s Wetlands and Conservation Commission and the community’s Board of Directors as the representative for the youth programs, volunteering at her children’s school, training for the New York City Marathon, and searching for the legal position that will be a good match for her skills and her commitment to remaining available to her family. Such a balancing act is unsurprising, given Joan’s ability to simultaneously excel at law school (she made Dean’s list every semester), engage multiple judicial internships, and be present to her then diaper-clad children. When asked how she did it, Joan replied “Time management is my superpower. I knew what my priorities were and built a routine around them. Errands will always be a low priority for me, I do most of them on my phone – sometimes I buy groceries at the gas station while filling my tank…”

When asked what she envisions for her legal career, Joan replied, “I’m still trying to figure this out. In tech, I always had a lot of flexibility and even though coders are predominately male, it’s actually a great fit for women and work-life balance. … I’ve found that law is not so progressive, so it’s a little tricky to get started at this stage in life. I have met a lot of moms who are lawyers but not practicing, even though they would like to be in some form. Apparently, the way law is generally practiced today is not conducive to being the primary parent. I think there’s an opportunity here, especially with the demand for legal services, but I haven’t figured it out yet.” There is one thing though that has become clear– there is a place in the legal services world for tech skills like Joan’s.

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: LHI Forms with Nancy Watson

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting the work of Nancy Watson, who volunteers through the use of LawHelp Interactive forms at the Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a national online document assembly platform that allows people representing themselves to prepare their own legal documents and pleadings online for free. It is also used by legal aid advocates, pro bono attorneys, and court systems seeking to work more efficiently and develop new approaches to service delivery. In clinics around the country, LHI forms enable volunteers, like Nancy Watson, to assist those who cannot afford an attorney to create their own complete, high quality legal documents and pleadings for free. Through the use of these forms, Nancy is better able to help those who come to Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles. Keep reading to learn more about Nancy and why she volunteers.

Nancy Watson, Volunteer
Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic

Nancy WatsonIt is a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to volunteer at Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.  The clinic assists those wanting to ensure that family members or loved ones who are not able to make decisions for themselves are adequately cared for and protected from potential physical, mental or financial abuse.   Most of those who come to the clinic do not have the resources to hire an attorney to navigate the legal system on their behalf.  Bet Tzekek performs a vital public service by helping a large number of potential conservators prepare and file the voluminous paperwork required by the court.

It is heartwarming to see the relief on a mother’s face when she knows that she will be able to continue making life decisions for her developmentally disabled child after he reaches the age of 18.  Rather than trust an institution to make the right decisions, parents who obtain conservatorships in this situation have peace of mind knowing that they will still be able to ensure their child is protected from neglect or abuse by retaining the right to determine where the adult child will live and to make important medical and educational choices.

Many adult children and spouses of those suffering from dementia or debilitating illness have expressed their gratitude to the clinic staff and volunteers who help them as they are often forced to deal with very stressful situations and emotionally wrenching decisions.  I am often touched by the consideration and gratitude of those who in the midst of their life struggles take the time to thank and appreciate the volunteer workers.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.”

I am a California attorney who has spent most of my career in public service.  I was employed by the State Bar of California for twenty years as a prosecutor in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel.  As an Assistant Chief Trial Counsel, I oversaw the Intake Unit and served as a manager of attorneys, investigators and paralegals until 2011.  Since that time, I have worked as a part-time Hearing Officer at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and have been volunteering two days a week at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working to serve the public as a volunteer at the Self-Help Clinic and I enjoy using my legal skills and knowledge to help others.  Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.  Nothing is more satisfying than helping others, particularly those who might otherwise not be able to exercise their legal rights, and it is my hope that others will be inspired to volunteer their time to assist the underserved in our community.

 


LHI logoPro Bono Net leads a national effort to provide online legal document assembly for poverty law and court access to justice programs. LawHelp Interactive allows subject matter experts to create interview templates that can be used to assemble court forms and other legal documents based on a user’s input. The system increases opportunities for self-represented litigants to achieve justice on their own and improves efficiency for legal aid, pro bono and courts-based access to justice programs. This project is in collaboration with Ohio State Legal Services Association, with funding by the Legal Services Corporation and the State Justice Institute, and using HotDocs software.

Bet Tzedek ClinicThe Bet Tzedek Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic, in partnership with the Los Angeles Superior Court, provides basic assistance to individuals who want to file for a probate conservatorship without a lawyer in order to help an adult who cannot care for himself or herself. The Clinic does not provide legal advice or attorney representation; instead it offers general information about the court process and help in preparing and filing documents to be appointed as a probate conservator.