Due to COVID-19 court restrictions, there have been no adoption proceedings over the past 14 months in New York City, culminating in a backlog of children in need. Although these proceedings are not considered to be “emergencies,” the failure to facilitate permanency on such a wide scale, in fact, poses a threat to the health and safety of children. As courts are beginning to hear these matters again, and given the tremendous unmet need for legal services, Proskauer is partnering with Mobilization for Justice’s Kinship Caregiver Law Project to provide the pro bono legal support needed to help stabilize families.
Proskauer was privileged to host a panel presentation with Her Justice this month to raise awareness of economic and legal obstacles facing women who are living in poverty in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel was moderated by Proskauer associate Elizabeth Siegel, a member of the Her Justice Junior Advisory Board, and featured Her Justice attorneys Hamra Ahmad, Anna Maria Diamanti, and Prathiba Desai. With support from pro bono lawyers at Proskauer and other law firms, Her Justice provides family law and immigration representation to women of limited means, most of whom are mothers and survivors of intimate partner violence.
Among other obstacles, the panelists highlighted the many hurdles the public health crisis has caused for low-income women seeking legal relief in family court. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing family court was challenging for Her Justice’s clients because the court required them to appear in person. Clients often had to wait several hours even for a brief appearance, which was particularly difficult and financially burdensome for those who needed to arrange for child care or time off from work. At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the New York City Family Court closed except for “essential services” such as emergency proceedings for orders of protection, which are being heard virtually. While the ability to obtain orders of protection during the pandemic is critical for vulnerable women, participating in virtual hearings has created yet another set of challenges for women living in poverty who may not be able to access the technology needed for remote hearings. The lack of access to a stable internet connection and a confidential location to safely discuss sensitive legal issues has proven to be especially difficult.
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.
To grow up American in all ways but one – having proper documentation – is what it means to be a dreamer. Being undocumented renders one nearly incapable of functioning as a regular member of society. It means calling in sick during the day of a school field trip that asks you to bring a form of government ID. It means being unable to get a job to fund and pursue higher education. It means being ineligible for most healthcare benefits during a pandemic.
Last week, in partnership with The Door, we hosted a virtual Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinic to assist 10 pro bono clients with preparing their initial DACA 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.
The New York Statewide Central Register (SCR) of Abuse and Maltreatment maintains records of calls, allegations, and results of investigations regarding suspected child abuse and maltreatment. Although these records are not public, many employers and agencies are legally obligated to check the database before hiring applicants and accepting volunteers. Having an “indicated” report on file severely decreases the chances for an applicant to gain employment, as well as detrimentally affects one’s ability to secure housing and apply for government benefits.
Through a recent training conducted by Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Proskauer now has the opportunity to file motions to vacate findings of neglect in family court, where called for under the law. In doing so, you can make a fundamental difference in the lives of poor families.
This week we had the privilege of speaking with Catherine Cole, the Executive Director of Grannies Respond, about the impact the “Grannies” have made through their efforts to advance immigrants’ rights, and how Proskauer’s pro bono work has supported the Grannies in their mission.
Grannies Respond / Abuelas Responden, Inc. is a grassroots movement and nonprofit organization that supports immigrants seeking asylum and safety in the United States. What inspired Grannies Respond to take on this mission?
In July 2018, the U.S. government’s separation of children from their families at the southern border broke many hearts. Children as young as five months old were taken from the parents who had brought them here to escape life-threatening conditions in their home countries and to seek asylum. Many people watched the news of the separations and felt helpless, but Dan Aymar-Blair, the creator of Grannies Respond, was discussing the separations at the border with friends and said “why don’t we put a bunch of grannies on a bus and go down there?” Grannies are the heart of the family and would never stand for separations. For our purposes, you don’t have to be a grandmother to be a “grannie” – we welcome everyone who supports the cause of immigrants’ rights.