The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Baited, Abused, and Jailed: The Silent Plight of Human Trafficking Victims

Thousands of women in the United States, who never knowingly or intentionally entered the sex industry, find themselves trapped in a world of unspeakable abuse. These women, whether in illicit massage parlors or other abhorrent situations, are routinely arrested despite being the victims – while traffickers and buyers with actual culpability routinely are not.

To understand their plight, imagine you are a single parent with three children, recently unemployed, and faced with mounting debt.  You see an online advertisement for a work opportunity in a neighboring country with a thriving restaurant industry.  You can split rent with other workers, send home earnings, and return to your children as soon as your debts are repaid.  To sweeten the offer, the employment agency covers airfare, handles immigration papers, secures an employer, and arranges housing, all at a fee that you can pay off over the course of your work engagement.  It seems your prayers have been answered; you leave hopeful and determined for the United States. Continue Reading

Proskauer Partners with HSBC Bank in Chicago to Host DACA Renewal Clinic

Last week, Proskauer’s Chicago office, in partnership with HSBC Bank (HSBC), hosted a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinic to assist 12 pro bono clients with preparing their DACA renewal applications.

The DACA program provides eligible, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 with a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, along with work authorization and the ability to apply for a social security number.  While the United States government is not currently accepting DACA applications from new enrollees, individuals who are currently on deferred action status can re-apply to maintain their status. Continue Reading

Proskauer Continues Partnership with John Jay College

Following my experience assisting immigrant families at the border, I have shared the story, the urgent challenges, and the need for change with many audiences. I have presented the same PowerPoint of my experience enough times that it’s now possible for me to click through the slides and images, words flowing easily, despite the devastating reality of the problem which is that families seeking asylum are freezing cold and hungry, held in cages and separated to disastrous effect. Over the past several months, I have at times felt numb to the injustice. But not last week.

Last week, for the second year in a row, Proskauer launched a series of Lawyering for Social Justice Workshops at John Jay College in Manhattan. The audience of mostly prelaw students are highly motivated and engaged. The students eagerly raised their hands with questions before I even got into a rhythm with the slides. Our lively conversation not only addressed recent changes in policy but included a broader discussion of immigration and how it fits into American ideals. Many of the students are either immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans.  Many are also the first in their families to attend college. Continue Reading

Bloomberg LP and Proskauer Serve LGBTQ Immigrant Survivors of Hate Violence

According to the most recent FBI statistics, reported incidents of hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017, rising for the third consecutive year. The FBI determined that the primary motivators of these crimes were race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.1  When compounded with the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, and recent changes in U.S. policy that negatively impact immigrants seeking asylum relief, there is an enormous, urgent need for effective pro bono legal services among LGBTQ immigrants.

Given this context, Bloomberg LP and Proskauer are proud sponsors of Lauren DesRosiers, an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Anti-Violence Project (AVP), who is devoted to providing holistic legal services to LGBTQ immigrant survivors of violence.  According to Lauren, “this project combats the further marginalization of these communities by creating channels whereby LGBTQ immigrant survivors of violence can be paired with pro bono attorneys and other forms of representation.” Continue Reading

Making Gender-Affirming Surgeries a Possibility for Low-Income Transgender People

For many transgender people, undergoing gender-affirming surgery is a crucial step toward a healthy gender transition. While not all transgender people need or want gender-affirming surgeries to be part of their transitions, receiving such surgeries may be life saving for some who do.

The American Medical Association has established that gender-affirming surgery is effective and medically necessary for many individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition resulting from an incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s gender assigned at birth. The symptoms of gender dysphoria can include distress, depression and suicidality.

Surveys show that 41 percent of transgender Americans report having attempted suicide, and there is a clear link between these high rates and the lack of transition-related health care coverage. Continue Reading

How to Identify and Address Secondary Trauma

Pro bono projects can provide some of the most meaningful and interesting moments in a lawyer’s career. It’s usually an easy decision to say “yes” when presented with a pro bono opportunity, because this type of work gives young lawyers invaluable experience and offers all lawyers a purposeful way to give back to their communities. Unfortunately, at the same time this work can be incredibly stressful, challenging, and emotionally taxing, and may lead to secondary trauma.

Secondary trauma is when the stress of working with a trauma-exposed client begins to interfere with a pro bono lawyer’s professional or personal life. Secondary traumatic stress, also known as vicarious trauma, burnout, or compassion fatigue, shares some symptoms with post-traumatic stress disorder, but it is the product of being indirectly exposed to another’s trauma. Examples of secondary trauma have been found in social workers who work with abused children; and therapists who support sexual assault survivors. Secondary traumatic stress also affects public interest lawyers, and has been documented among public defenders and judges. Continue Reading

Stopping Witness Tampering by Abusers and Sex Traffickers in Pretrial Detention

Last month, Proskauer filed an amicus brief on behalf of Sanctuary for Families — a leading non-profit organization advocating for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking —specifically to advocate for allowing criminal prosecutions based on lawfully recorded telephone calls that abusers in pretrial detention use to coerce victims not to testify.

According to some reports, up to 80% of victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking recant their testimony of the abuse and refuse to cooperate with police.  Decades of social-science research, along with recent academic studies and reputable reporting, show that many domestic violence and sex trafficking victims recant because they are suffering from acute psychological trauma akin to Stockholm Syndrome: by combining psychological manipulation with incidents of physical violence, abusers achieve “coercive control” of their victims and successfully instruct them not to testify.  Abusers in pretrial detention are particularly incentivized to coerce their victims not to testify because, often, the victim is the only available witness to the crime. Continue Reading

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