The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Taking Action for Families Separated at the Border

An anxious mother, detained in a separate facility from her son, is informed that authorities had lost track of him.  A devastated father is deported without his child.  A crying child is ripped from his father’s arms and put into a cage-like metal cell.  These Proskauer clients – all escaping violence in Central America – suffered those horrors not in their home countries but in the country where they sought asylum, in the United States.

Beginning in 2017 as a pilot project, the U.S. government began splitting thousands of families in an effort to deter immigration across the southern border.  The practice became official in 2018 through the government’s “zero tolerance” policy which called for the detention and prosecution of all individuals – including those seeking asylum – who crossed the border anywhere other than an official port of entry.

While national outrage prompted an official end to the policy, the government did not stop, and to this day continues to separate families.  In total, over 5,500 children have been separated from their parents since 2017, at least 1,100 of whom were separated after the policy officially ended.  Tragically, the parents of 666 separated children still have not been found. Continue Reading

Proskauer Virtual Volunteers Support LACBA’s Veterans Legal Service Project Clinic

Next week, Proskauer will headline the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Veterans Legal Services Project (VLSP) clinic. Proskauer attorneys sponsor the clinic every November – but this year’s clinic will be very different. The VLSP clinic has adjusted to the realities of 2020 and, in doing so, has found new ways to improve its services to veterans. For many veterans, the transition back to civilian life is challenging, and the unique difficulties posed by the COVID-19 public health crisis has had a tremendous impact on the ability to find legal representation and other crucial services.

The VLSP clinic focuses on providing advice to homeless and at-risk veterans regarding record expungements, as well as outstanding tickets and warrants. Attorneys attending the clinic perform interviews and intakes for the clinic, and provide referrals to the attending veterans. Continue Reading

Challenging Proposed DHS Rule Harmful to Lower Income Families

On October 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking governing the “Affidavit of Support” requirements under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Certain immigrants seeking to come to the United States are required to submit an Affidavit of Support signed by a sponsor who agrees to provide financial support to the sponsored immigrant. The Proposed Rule would impose onerous requirements on petitioning sponsors and joint sponsors, thereby making it more difficult for many noncitizens to immigrate to or remain in the United States, which can in turn have the negative effect of separating, or prolonging the separation of, immigrant families.

Among other sweeping changes, the Proposed Rule would impose the following burdens on potential financial sponsors and joint sponsors:

  • The sponsor must find a joint sponsor if (i) he or she used any amount of means-tested public benefits during the three years prior to submitting the Affidavit of Support, or (ii) the petitioning sponsor had a judgment entered against him or her at any time for failing to meet any prior sponsorship or household member obligation.
  • An individual cannot be a joint sponsor if (i) he or she has received means-tested public benefits during the previous three years, or (ii) had a judgment entered against him or her for failure to meet sponsor or household member obligations.
  • Sponsors must comply with burdensome and intrusive requests for sensitive personal information, including three years of bank account and tax documentation.
  • Significant limitations will be placed on the class of people who can be considered “household members” for purposes of adding their incomes to the sponsor’s income. For example, to combine the intending immigrant’s income with the sponsor’s, the immigrant and the sponsor must plan to live in the same household.

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Proskauer Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of 25 Leading Colleges and Universities Challenging New DHS and DOL Interim Final Rules Restricting H-1B and Other Visa Programs

On October 30, 2020, Proskauer filed an amicus brief on behalf of 25 leading colleges and universities in support of a preliminary injunction sought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the Northern District of California against Interim Final Rules issued by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor. The new Rules substantially restrict eligibility for the H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, EB-2, and EB-3 visa programs relied upon by academic institutions to employ thousands of highly skilled international workers. In doing so, the new Rules will negatively impact workers who, through the universities and academic medical centers that employ them, provide critical contributions to the research that drives our nation’s scientific progress, public health, and economic vitality.

The amicus brief gives voice to academic institutions that were previously unable to make their concerns known because DHS and DOL issued the Interim Final Rules on October 8, 2020 without providing the required notice-and-comment period under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DOL Rule went into effect immediately and the DHS Rule is effective on December 7, 2020.  Had there been an opportunity for these institutions to provide comments regarding the Rules, the agencies would have been required to consider the irreparable harm that the Rules will cause to international workers, who are educating our nation’s students and performing research on COVID-19, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other key areas in science and medicine. Continue Reading

Proskauer & Election Protection – Ensuring Voices Are Heard And Votes Are Counted

Election Protection is a nationwide nonpartisan coalition, spearheaded by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, working to ensure that every voter is able to exercise their right to vote. In conversation with Damon Hewitt, Executive Vice President, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Proskauer pro bono partner Bill Silverman says, “Supporting impactful and important programs like Election Protection helps people who might otherwise be disenfranchised have their voices heard, and their votes counted.” Watch the video below where we had the chance to connect with Bill and Damon on this unprecedented election and our joined efforts to amplify voices and voters this season:

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Confronting Racial Injustice: Felony Convictions and the Right to Vote

The idea that individuals with a felony conviction should be barred from voting for at least some period of time is widely accepted across the United States. But when you consider that current laws arose out of explicit racial animus following the Civil War and the end of slavery; when you look at the disproportionate effect the practice has had on people of color; and when you weigh the arguments in favor of disenfranchising millions of Americans – it becomes apparent that states should revisit this issue as part of broader criminal justice reform efforts and broader calls to address systemic racism.

Currently, over five million Americans who otherwise qualify to vote cannot do so as the result of a felony conviction. Continue Reading

Election Protection and the Need for Nationwide Voting Standards

Proskauer’s participation in Election Protection, through hosting a call center with Firm, client and alumni volunteers across the United States, provides an invaluable service to individual voters ensuring they have an equal opportunity to cast their ballot.  This volunteer experience also provides great insight into the current condition of democracy in America.  It lays bare some fundamental weaknesses in the US electoral systems of voting, but also suggests a potential roadmap for reform.

One thing becomes clear to anyone who takes part in this effort – the US does not have a system of voting but rather has many systems, each controlled on the local level.  From registering to vote to voting itself, including voter ID laws and the ability to vote by mail, elections vary widely from state to state.

Rules change as soon as one crosses state lines and even county lines in some instances, causing widespread voter confusion. The essential and what should be fairly straightforward act of voting in the US has become too complicated. Continue Reading

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