The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Building a Team and a Home with Habitat

For those of you who have not had the experience, allow me to share with you the magic of doing a “build” with Habitat for Humanity.  First, while most everyone has heard of this organization, many may not fully understand what it does and how it works.  In short, Habitat is a non-profit that helps families and improves places to call home. But this includes more than simply building new residences (both homes and town-houses), but also helping renovate homes for the disabled and those in need.

The scope and benefits that Habitat provides extend beyond the family living in the houses served, and include improving the surrounding communities.  I have seen this firsthand as a member of the board for the local Habitat chapter here in Los Angeles.

Three years ago Habitat built houses in a distressed area of Long Beach. Having the new homes, and owners that took good care of them, has really turned around that community.  Not only did we build new homes in Long Beach, we also made cosmetic and capital improvements to others in the surrounding areas, in houses where the owner was disabled, senior, or otherwise unable to do the work. This area now has playgrounds, parks and a sense of community. Continue Reading

Law Professors Take on Flawed USCIS Policy

Yesterday, 23 law professors represented by Proskauer were granted permission to participate as amici curiae in a class action lawsuit contesting a recent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy change affecting minors in New York who seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).  This policy change has resulted in SIJS denials for immigrant children who would otherwise qualify for SIJS based on well-established state and federal law.

SIJS is a form of immigration relief that provides unmarried children under age 21 with a path to citizenship if they can provide a determination from a state juvenile court that they are dependent on the court or are committed by the court to the custody of a State entity or an individual; that reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law; and that it is not in their “best interest” to return to their country of origin. Continue Reading

Pro Bono for Immigrant Families: My Client’s Day in Court

It was unlike any courtroom I had seen before. The Immigration Judge appeared on a video screen a little blurry but larger than life. My client, an eight-year-old girl, sat next to me at a long table. This proceeding in Dilley, Texas was not open to the public but was held behind two locked doors in a trailer secured within a sprawling “family residential center” that despite its friendly name, had all the indicia of a jail.

This was an expedited removal proceeding, and I was appealing an asylum officer’s negative credible fear determination for my young client. Her mother’s appeal already had been denied so this was our last chance to prevent the two from being deported. Especially considering my client’s age, I wanted to marshal the evidence and explain why the legal standard had been met in this case. “May I be heard Your Honor?” I asked. “No, you may not,” he responded. The Judge asked my client a few questions with little follow-up and denied the appeal, wishing my client, “good luck in your home country.”  Continue Reading

Pro Bono for Immigrant Families: Report from the Texas Border

The South Texas Family Residential Center here in Dilley, Texas is surrounded by metal fencing, video cameras, and tall light poles that you can see from miles away at night. The country’s largest immigration detention facility, it sprawls 50 acres and is comprised of 2,400 beds in a series of large barracks-style trailers which look eerily similar to pictures of the Japanese-American “relocation centers” during World War II.

I met more than 25 detained women and their children here. All are from El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala, and all but two suffered from some form of gang violence, severe domestic violence or in many cases, a combination of both. I heard stories from people who witnessed the murder of family members, and who themselves were subjected to unspeakable violent crime without protection from law enforcement. Continue Reading

Pro Bono for Immigrant Families at the South Texas Family Residential Center

As the Firm’s pro bono partner, I often have the privilege of looking beyond individual matters to see how we can make a difference on a wider scale. And at times I drop everything to immerse myself in a particularly important cause. For the week of June 17th, I am proud to report that I will be in Dilley, Texas representing women and children detainees for 12 hours a day at the country’s largest immigration detention center.

Working with the CARA Family Detention Project, I will be among a steady influx of volunteer lawyers joining in person to aid this cause. CARA began in response to the significant expansion of family detention on the border.

Continue Reading

The Value of Mentoring

We work with iMentor to empower first-generation students from low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college and achieve their ambitions. Last week, our mentees Elizabeth and Steven joined us at our New York City offices as part of iMentor’s “take your mentee to work day.”  Elizabeth and Steven are high school juniors at Bronx High School for Law and Community Service.

After picking our mentees up from the Bryant Park subway stop, we welcomed them to the office and gave them a tour of the space. Elizabeth then shadowed a finance conference call with corporate partner Ron Franklin, while Steven met with attorneys from various departments. No visit to the Proskauer offices would be complete without a trip to Shake Shack, enjoyed in our cafeteria at a table that gave us expansive views of the city. At lunch, we talked about our college experiences and our mentees’ future career goals. Our mentees asked a lot of questions about the transition to college (which is starting to feel like a long time ago for us!), and about why we decided to attend our respective colleges and ultimately decided to become lawyers. Continue Reading

Gun Safety Now

I was first affected by gun violence in 1993, when an armed gunman entered the conference room of a San Francisco law firm during a deposition and opened fire. Two people in that conference room were killed, and I knew both of them. One of the individuals who died was a partner at the firm I worked for after law school and the other was a lawyer my age from my home town, and he died shielding his wife from the gunfire. That event made me really think about the impact of gun violence and turned me into a longtime advocate of reasonable gun safety measures.

I attended the Conversation on Gun Safety which Proskauer hosted last week. We were honored to welcome as featured speakers John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety; Eric Tirschwell, Director of Litigation and National Enforcement Policy for Everytown; and Nathalie Arzu, a survivor of gun violence who is now an advocate for gun safety. Continue Reading

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