Recent studies show a great disparity in the number of U.S. patents issued to women and people of color. A 2020 report published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found that, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population, women only represent 12.8% of United States inventor-patentees. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported in 2016 that less than 8% of issued patents named women as the primary inventor. In 2018, researchers at Yale University found after examining the prosecution and maintenance histories of approximately 2.7 million U.S. patent applications that women patent applicants have less favorable outcomes than men – women’s patent applications are more likely to be rejected than those of men, and those rejections are less likely to be appealed. While the gender gap faced by women inventors is decreasing gradually, at the current rate it will take more than 100 years to reach gender parity in the U.S patenting process.
When navigating routine experiences such as applying for jobs, traveling, accessing healthcare, and interacting with government agencies, many of us are able to present our identification documents or write down our legal names without a second thought. But for transgender individuals navigating these same spaces, having to use a legal name that is inconsistent with their gender identity often translates into a heightened risk of discrimination, harassment, and violence. That such a fundamental part of one’s identity — a person’s name — can expose one to bigotry or physical harm is an injustice that is unfortunately far too common in transgender communities.
In fact, in a 2015 survey of transgender Americans, nearly one-third of respondents reported being “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave a location or establishment, or assaulted or attacked” as a result of showing a government-issued ID with a name or gender marker that did not match their gender expression. For many transgender individuals, the opportunity to legally change their legal name not only affirms their identity but also increases their safety. Yet many of those who want legal name changes cannot access them because of the cost and the complications of navigating the court system.
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.
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.
As documented in numerous studies, the brunt of COVID-19’s impact has fallen most heavily on racial and ethnic minorities who have suffered higher hospitalization and mortality rates as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment as a consequence of the virus and government efforts to contain it. As a result, many low-income tenants—Black and Latinx, disproportionately—are having difficulty paying their rent.
In New Jersey, hundreds of thousands of residents, including a disproportionate number of minorities, face this grim reality and may soon become at risk of eviction. One July 2020 study predicted that approximately 450,000 households—40% of all New Jersey renter households—would be unable pay rent in August, and that nearly half of Black New Jersey renter households would be unable to do so—a higher percentage than for any other race or ethnicity. It is estimated that between 400,000 and 560,000 New Jersey renter households are at risk of eviction, which is forecasted to culminate in New Jersey with an estimated 600% increase from pre-COVID-19 levels.
Nearly one-third of transgender individuals experience homelessness at some point in their life, and 70% of those who have stayed in a homeless shelter have reported some form of mistreatment, including harassment and refusal of service, due to their gender identity. Transgender individuals are significantly more likely to end up homeless than the general population because they often face rejection by their family members and discrimination in employment and housing. The levels of discrimination and income inequality are even higher for transgender women of color, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the rates of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness among the transgender population.
On September 22, 2020, Proskauer pro bono attorneys filed a public comment letter on behalf of The National LGBT Bar Association and Foundation urging the withdrawal of a Proposed Rule issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would severely harm homeless transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals by allowing federally funded homeless shelters to discriminate against them on the basis of their gender identity. The Proposed Rule would eliminate key non-discrimination protections previously afforded to transgender shelter-seekers under HUD’s 2016 Equal Access Rule and would permit single-sex shelters to turn away transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals if the shelter operator determines that the individual is not of the same “biological sex” as the other shelter residents.
Many immigrant families in the U.S. live with the fear that their loved ones will be detained on very short notice during Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids. Just this week, a Proskauer pro bono volunteer answered a call to the Immigration Helpline from a woman seeking help after her undocumented husband was arrested and detained by officials she feared were immigration officers. She did not know why he was taken, where she could go to see him, and whether he was going to be incarcerated or deported.
Unfortunately, this caller’s experience is commonplace under U.S. immigration policy. In July 2019, the federal government announced nationwide ICE raids targeting immigrant families in major U.S. cities. At the time, the President characterized the coordinated raids as a “major operation,” threatening to send undocumented and other removable immigrants into detention and out of the country. Shortly after the President’s announcement, Proskauer pro bono attorneys and staff sprung to action, working through the weekend, to answer calls from immigrants fearing these raids.
This week we had the privilege of speaking with Michael Stanley, a professional community organizer with Manhattan Together and South Bronx Churches Sponsoring Committee (SBC), and Ray Lopez, the Director of Environmental Health Services of the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA), on the topic of pro bono lawyering for social justice in collaboration with community organizers. Manhattan Together, SBC, and LSA are nonprofit organizations and members of Metro IAF, a network of multi-faith organizations that draw on the power of person-to-person organizing to transform communities and build the local power necessary to create change on local and national levels.