National Celebrate Pro Bono 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 have been celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency. Today we are highlighting additional pro bono work around the country, and sharing resources to help volunteer attorneys get started. 

Earlier this year, the separation of families at the boarder headlined news outlets everywhere. Now? Not so much. While headlines in the US may have moved on, many families are still separated and immigrant parents are still detained in more than 200 immigrant prisons and jails in the U.S.

According to recent numbers, more than 4,000 parents and children were separated at the US-Mexico border between May 5, 2018 and June 9, 2018 as part of earlier “no tolerance” policy under the current administration. While efforts to reunite families have begun, thousands of parents and children still face uphill legal battles for reunification and relief.

Continue Reading An Interview with Betty Balli Torres, Pro Bono Net Board of Directors | A Pro Bono Week Exclusive

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the StandWithImmigrants campaign from Immigration Advocates Network.

We need volunteers to join the campaign and pledge to Stand with Immigrants!

Visit www.standwithimmigrants.org to get involved. The site offers volunteer opportunities, resources, trainings, and calls to action. There are many ways to get involved, whether you are a lawyer, educator, social worker, health care provider, interpreter, community activist, or concerned neighbor. Some volunteer opportunities require special skills, such as legal training or language proficiency, while others only require time and the desire to help.

When you visit the site, you are invited to “take the pledge.” We’ll send you the Stand With Immigrants monthly newsletter, and update your “action center” on the site to connect you to volunteer opportunities based on location, interests, and areas of expertise.

Search for general volunteer opportunities by profession and location, or specific volunteer positions on the “volunteers needed” page. Explore our resource pages, and find fact sheets, toolkits, podcasts, and recorded webinars on immigration policy, volunteer opportunities, how best to serve immigrant clients, and much more.

Take the pledge today to #StandWithImmigrants and follow the campaign on facebook and twitter to stay up to date on current events and volunteer needs.

 

 


The Stand With Immigrants campaign is a collaboration of the Immigration Advocates Network, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), The Advocates for Human Rights, UnidosUS, and Pro Bono Net.

The current Administration is ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of people, and the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is uncertain. Detention and deportation rates are up. How can communities protect themselves?

Immi.orgImmi.org, a project of the Immigration Advocates Network, provides free information in English and Spanish to empower immigrants. Immi features include: a learning center with plain language articles about immigration law, a personalized screening interview to anonymously identify legal avenues for relief, and a referral list of over 1,000 nonprofit legal service providers.

In its first year, more than 100,000 people have visited immi. Nearly half have tried the personalized screening interview, to find out if they may qualify for legal immigration status. In the United States, an estimated 10 to 20% of undocumented immigrants have legal options, but do not know it. Immi helps them find out more.

How can advocates and volunteers help? Share immi.org with your community. Use it in your workshops, post it on your website, and prepare immigrants for legal appointments. Order free Know-Your-Rights cards to hand out at your office or events: www.immi.org/order. Share immi on social media: www.immi.org/share. Help us get the word out, to empower immigrants.  


immi™ helps immigrants in the U.S. understand their legal options. Our online screening tool, legal information, and referrals to nonprofit legal services organizations are always free to use.

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.

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. 

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.

 

 

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

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.

 


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.

The Immigration Advocates Network Fifth Annual E-Conference FundraiserThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fifth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from October 31 to November 4, 2016. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on representing children, administrative advocacy, entry & admission, U visas, and provisional waivers. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.

IAN offers free webinars throughout the year for pro bono lawyers and nonprofit staff.  However, once a year, IAN hosts an e-Conference Fundraiser, and offers these webinars for a small fee. The e-Conference raises money to support the free online training materials for advocates who represent noncitizens in claims for asylum, changes in immigration status, naturalization and more. Resources include training materials, practice advisories, sample applications and affidavits, government-issued policy memoranda, significant case law, related articles, checklists and links to additional resources.

Join the e-Conference to support IAN and learn about the latest issues and strategies in immigration law.

E-Conference Features 

  • Listen to nationally-recognized experts from the comfort of your own office;
  • Participate in “ask the expert” sessions during each interactive training;
  • Access presentations and handouts before the training session;
  • Take interactive quizzes and polls before and during conference sessions; and
  • Obtain exclusive access to recorded trainings after the conference.

Register

The cost of each two-hour training session is $25. Your support helps IAN offer free trainings and resources throughout the year. For more information and to register, visit https://www.immigrationadvocates.org/econference.


Conference Sessions 

Representing Children in Removal Proceedings
Monday, October 31
This training will discuss legal protections for children in removal proceedings and steps to take if the government breaks those rules. The panel will focus on practice strategies for advocates.

Elevating the Case: Strategies for Helping Clients with USCIS Issues
Tuesday, November 1
This training will cover common issues with DACA and other cases such as processing delays, rejections, requests for evidence, correcting typographical mistakes and agency error. The panel will discuss points of access within USCIS, and how to engage the Ombudsman’s office.

How Entry, Admission, and Parole Affect Your Client’s Case
Wednesday, November 2
This training will review legal concepts of entry, admission, and parole into the United States. The panel will also discuss the practical effects of what happened at the point of entry on a client’s case.

Enhance Your U Visa Practice
Thursday, November 3
This interactive training is a U visa case strategy session, to troubleshoot common U visa issues, including how to frame qualifying crimes, complex inadmissibility issues, and more. Participants are invited to submit U visa scenarios on the registration form so that the webinar can discuss the issues they face in practice.

The Expanded Provisional Waiver Program
Friday, November 4
The panel will explain eligibility for the expanded program, including tips on completing the new I-601A. It will also cover the extreme hardship standard based on draft or finalized agency guidance.

If you are unable to attend a session, but would like to donate to support the Immigration Advocates Network, click here.

 


The 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.

As part of Practising Law Institute’s “Human Trafficking in Immigrant Communities” webinar a panel addressed special considerations for immigrant victims of human trafficking. Unlike domestic human trafficking victims, immigrants face additional hurdles related to their immigration status, cultural norms, and family hostage situations. Moderated by Melissa Brennan, Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families, the panel consisted of a human trafficking survivor under the pseudonym of Liberty, Hon. Pamela K. Chen a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, and Rosie Wang a Legal Fellow with Sanctuary for Families Human Trafficking Initiative.

Like thousands of trafficking victims in the United States, Liberty was lied to. She was promised an opportunity to come to the US, work as a nanny, and go to school. Instead, she was brought to the US, held hostage by traffickers, and forced to work. After hearing that others were being used like her, she was determined to put a stop to it and get justice for herself and others. She bravely went to a nonprofit organization, was paired with a pro bono attorney, and has been able to secure a T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) and eventually a green card. She is currently studying international relations and wants to work in human rights to fight for victims. With the help of legal service and pro bono volunteers, more stories can end like hers.

When representing immigrant trafficking victims, advocates must take a more holistic approach. Many clients may have concerns beyond their immediate immigration status that need to be addressed first. As an advocate for the survivor, it is crucial to gain the trust of your client and treat them as a whole person and not just their legal case. Nonprofit organizations and NGOs (Nongovernmental Organizations) play a crucial role in a victim’s experience during this process as they can provide assistance for those additional needs like housing, medical attention, education, etc.

Many victims are unaware of all of their options including their ability to qualify for the T visa, a specific visa set aside to protect human trafficking victims. While they may be aware of other visa options, this may be the best option for the survivors of human trafficking, but it is not without its hurdles.

Unfortunately, human traffickers can be resourceful when it comes to controlling their victims and sometimes go to enormous lengths to keep them compliant. A major tool traffickers and abusers use to control their victims is to instill a fear of law enforcement. Whether by making the victim feel complicit in illegal activities, or by convincing their victims that the police will deport them, throw them in jail, or won’t believe them, traffickers are able to prevent many victims from coming forward. To compound the issue, some immigrants may come from countries in which the police are corrupt, or testimonial evidence is not given much credence in a court of law. Many may feel ashamed, or are convinced that their situations are unique.

Additionally, traffickers may threaten the victim’s family in order to keep them from going to law enforcement. In these situations, it is possible for law enforcement to help get a trafficked person’s family out of danger. Inside the US, children can be found and a judge can rule on custody. In the event of family remaining in the country of origin, cooperation between US law enforcement and law enforcement on the ground in the country of origin can track down and bring family members of victims to the United States via parole which is approved and renewed by ICE. Once in the US, or once removed from the traffickers, family members can apply for the T visa derivative to extend benefits from the original T visa to the victim’s family.

In order to qualify for a T visa, an immigrant must first show that they were indeed a trafficking victim, and also cooperate with any reasonable requests from law enforcement if a criminal investigation is conducted. With such distrust of law enforcement taught to them, advocates must work with the survivors to ensure that they feel safe when speaking with law enforcement. However, building a bond of trust can have its own hurdles.

Victims of trauma are not always as forthcoming when talking about what happened to them. They may still feel loyal to their traffickers or they may be trying to protect other family members from implication. Also, they may even have a hard time comprehending that a pro bono lawyer is really there to provide services without an ulterior motive.

The panel provided sage advice for addressing these issues. Be up front and honest with your client. Explain the concept of pro bono. Lay out the details of confidentiality. Reassure them you are on their side. Make sure that they understand the difference between their immigration case and any ongoing criminal cases, and that the criminal case will not affect their T visa eligibility. Utilize programs offered by NGOs to get them additional assistance, as this can also go a long way towards building their trust. Most importantly, keep reassuring them that you are there to represent and support them

To hear Liberty’s story first hand and learn more about the considerations crucial to properly representing immigrant human trafficking survivors, watch the panel at the Practising Law Institute online.

 



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.

This year, Pro Bono Net celebrated our 15th Anniversary. As we reflect back on the past 15 years, we caught up with a few individuals who were critical to our early growth and development. Below is an interview with Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net Program Director. 

Pro Bono Net: Tell us about your time and role at Pro Bono Net?

Liz Keith: I’m approaching a decade with Pro Bono Net.Liz Keith That sounds like long time, and in some ways it is! But PBN and the communities we work with are incredibly dynamic. I’ve never stopped learning along the way, and have had opportunities to work on and develop a wide variety of projects over the years. I started as a Circuit Rider, helping our partner organizations around the country develop their LawHelp.org and probono.net initiatives. My role has expanded since then. I’m still very involved in those efforts, but now oversee our strategies and services across our programs.

PBN: What drew you to working here?

LK: I came to Pro Bono Net after completing a self-tailored masters degree in community informatics at the University of Michigan, focused on public interest applications of technology. Before that I had worked for several years at the Maine Women’s Policy Center, where I helped to coordinate advocacy and community outreach initiatives focusing on economic security, freedom from violence, health care, and civil rights. In Maine I had a chance to work on several novel initiatives that used online tools to support participation of rural and under-represented communities in policy formation, as well as educating women about changes in the law.

Finding Pro Bono Net was a little like finding a needle in a haystack. It combined my interests in access to legal information, community engagement, and creating innovative solutions to help people in need. The fact that Pro Bono Net is not just a technology provider was also attractive. It’s equally invested in improving collaboration in the legal sector, and supporting our partners in developing effective content, outreach, and sustainability strategies. At the time there very few nonprofit organizations working across these areas – and we’re still pretty unique in that way. The national scale of PBN’s work was an added draw.

PBN: What have been the most exciting changes to observe as the organization has grown?

LK: The most striking is probably the transformation in how the communities we work with view technology. In my first few years I did a lot of site visits to our field partners. The local project coordinator and I would do outreach presentations about LawHelp.org and probono.net to legal aid program staff, community groups, law schools, and so on. Invariably, about 10 minutes into a workshop, someone would raise their hand and say, “all of these online legal resources are great, but do low-income clients really have access to the Internet?” It was a valid question at the time, and a digital divide still persists in certain areas, so part of our strategy has always been to work with community anchor institutions that help the public access LawHelp.org. But these days, we’re hearing questions like, “these online resources are great, but our clients are asking if they can apply for services online or e-file forms through LawHelp Interactive.” Some of that change relates to how much more interwoven technology is with our daily lives now, but evaluations of PBN’s programs and training initiatives show that we’ve played a key role in helping to grow the capacity of the field in taking innovative approaches to client services and volunteer mobilization. Some of the most exciting ideas I hear these days come from people who once described themselves as Luddites. In our consumer-facing work, we’ve also expanded our longtime focus on plain language to include other critical areas like language access. Another exciting development has been the growth of our immigration work, via the Immigration Advocates Network, from a small pilot to a major national initiative using innovative technology and collaboration to tackle complex issues and expand legal services for low-income immigrants.

PBN: What are you most proud of from your time at Pro Bono Net?

LK: I think Hurricane Katrina was a galvanizing moment for Pro Bono Net as an organization and me personally on certain levels. I had done a site visit to New Orleans just a few months before. The impact of Katrina was so widespread it became apparently very quickly that the affected communities, particularly low-income ones, would be dealing with legal issues stemming from the disaster for years to come. We were still a small organization at the time, but were able to mobilize quickly to assist our partners in the region with certain immediate needs, and then in leveraging their LawHelp.org and probono.net projects to deliver critical information to the public and help coordinate response efforts by legal aid staff and volunteers. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to support the work of incredibly dedicated advocates and programs throughout the Gulf Coast in the wake of that event. Since then, I’ve worked with other partners on efforts that use our programs to help people recover from crises – whether natural or industrial disasters, like the BP oil spill or the 2008 economic recession. It’s gratifying to see how our programs can help people get a foothold out of crisis, support the work of legal aid practitioners and volunteers, and advance our partners’ own goals on the ground.

Also – and I can’t take credit for this, but I’m not sure where else it fits in this interview! – I’m really proud of PBN’s staff. They are incredibly talented, committed and deeply engaged in the work we do and supporting our collaborations around the country. They’re also a lot of fun. You can see how we like to spend our spare time in Jake’s summer 2014 round-up.

PBN: Where is Pro Bono Net going over the next 15 years, how will our role change, and how will the second 15 years be different from the first 15?

LK: The only constant is change, right? I think our core mission and approach – developing innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice – will be a constant. I also think we’ll continue to focus largely on solutions that are scalable and replicable and can have widespread impact, not just one-off projects. That said, I see PBN becoming even more of an incubator, and creating spaces for our staff and partners to develop, test, and learn from small-scale projects. I think increasingly we will mix and match our own technology platforms with cutting-edge commercial tools or innovations in the start-up space. I also see us getting more involved in designing and delivering direct services in certain contexts. We do this now through CitizenshipWorks.org and a few other projects, but other examples might include developing and managing a large-scale remote volunteer initiative for underserved communities, or designing new programs that engage many more non-attorneys and non-legal organizations in access to justice. Looking ahead, I’d love to see us leverage the “network” nature of Pro Bono Net even more – how can we connect the hundreds of public interest organizations and thousands of volunteers in our network in new and creative ways to match resources to needs? And how can we connect individuals facing life-altering issues with these groups, and to each other, in ways that not only solve their immediate problem, but also provide information and resources that have an enduring positive impact on whole communities?

PBN: What are some examples of innovative technologies we hope to support/help develop in the next few years to close the justice gap?

LK: I’m glad you’re not asking me to look 15 years ahead on this one! In the near term, I’m excited about the new capacities we’re building into the next generation of LawHelp Interactive and CitizenshipWorks. On LHI, this includes creating a more scalable platform to better support the creative and diverse ways that legal aid programs, courts, libraries, shelters, and others want to use it. And CitizenshipWorks 2.0 will include new remote consultation tools to bring naturalization legal assistance to smaller and rural communities where resources are scarce. We’re also exploring expansion possibilities for the Debt and Eviction Navigator (aka DEN), a tablet-based screening tool that is used by social workers and nurses to assess the legal needs of the homebound elderly. DEN guides the social workers through a series of questions to conduct consumer and housing “legal health check-ups” for the seniors and then direct them to sources of help. It’s part of a national trend toward partnering with non-legal organizations and lay advocates in solutions for closing the justice gap. I think supportive tools like DEN have a lot of promise, particularly when they draw on the incredibly rich information and referral resources on LawHelp.org sites. We’re also expanding our mobile strategies through several LawHelp.org and probono.net projects. So, a lot to look forward to. Stay tuned to Connecting Justice Communities for updates!

On Friday, August 1st, Practising Law Institute (PLI) will be hosting a free webinar on “Advanced Public Assistance and Food Stamp Eligibility 2014: Special Populations.”

The webinar will cover the intricate eligibility rules for special populations seeking Public Assistance and Food Stamps (SNAP). Certain populations, including immigrants, the homeless, and people with disabilities, are subject to various exceptions and modifications to the usual rules. These populations are also typically the most in need of assistance.  Along with information regarding representing these special populations, the webinar will cover information on representing clients in Fair Hearings and Article 78 special proceedings, two of the primary forums in which advocates assist people with public assistance and food stamp problems. This session will complement PLI’s recent training sessions on basic eligibility, and is ideal for attorneys interested in helping low-income clients with public assistance and food stamp matters.

PLI will also be offering two of the webinar sessions with Spanish translations. The sessions available in translation are “Special Populations: Immigrants” at 9:15 ET and the “Fair Hearings” at 2:15 ET. The translations are available thanks to an exciting pilot initiative by PLI that will help to increase the accessibility of these vital resources.

The full schedule of the webinar is available here, tune in for the whole day or just catch the one session you need!