The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

A Seven-Year Journey from Asylum to U.S. Citizenship: Reflections on LGBTQ Immigrant Justice

In 2014, I had the privilege of representing two extraordinary young asylum seekers who had fled from Macedonia, where, because they are a gay couple, they had suffered extreme homophobic violence and sexual abuse at the hands of civilians and police officers.  In 2021, I had the honor of helping them become U.S. citizens.

In reflecting on my clients’ seven-year journey to United States citizenship, I am reminded of how much has changed, but also how much has unfortunately remained the same and how far we have yet to go in the pursuit of LGBTQ human rights both at home and abroad.

The first of my two Macedonian clients arrived in the U.S. in 2012, and the second client joined him here in May 2013, just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013).  In Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), through which Congress had sought to define “marriage” and “spouse” in more than 1,000 federal laws and federal regulations in a way that excluded same-sex spouses, thereby depriving them of the benefits that would come with federal recognition of their marriages and imposing “a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter same-sex marriages.”  Id. at 770.  The Supreme Court found that DOMA deprived gay and lesbian married couples of equal liberty under the Fifth Amendment because it interfered with the equal dignity of marriages under State laws recognizing marriage between same-sex spouses. Continue Reading

Learning and Re-Learning Our U.S. History with Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste”

Have you read Caste? Partnership With Children featured the book’s author Isabel Wilkerson at the organization’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Breakfast on March 9. Proskauer was proud to be among the event underwriters, a collaboration made possible through the Firm’s corporate social responsibility program.

As part of Proskauer’s Women’s History Month celebration, colleagues in the Proskauer Women’s Alliance and the Black Lawyers Affinity Group, among others from Proskauer, had the chance to attend this remarkable event and hear insights from Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, and author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Continue Reading

Patent Diversity Project: Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the U.S. Patent System

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. Continue Reading

Affirming Identity: Legal Name Changes for Transgender Immigrants

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. Continue Reading

Proskauer Women’s Alliance Celebrates Women’s History Month in Partnership with Bottomless Closet

In celebration of Women’s History Month and in collaboration with longtime Firm partnering organization Bottomless Closet, the Proskauer’s Women Alliance have teamed up with Bottomless Closet to present a series of empowering workshops to women in need throughout February, March and April 2021.

Embodying the philosophy of women helping women, Bottomless Closet has a 20+ year history of serving disadvantaged New York City women, and has served more than 40,000 clients. The organization’s holistic approach makes sure that its clients have all the tools and resources to enter the workforce and achieve success. Continue Reading

Proskauer Secures Asylum for Client Persecuted Based on Sexual Orientation

On February 5, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) granted asylum to our client, a gay man who suffered horrific violence based on his sexual orientation.  For their own homophobic reasons, the police in his country of origin refused to investigate the hate crimes that were committed against him.   Fearing for his life, our client fled to the United States.  Now that he has received asylum, he can live and work in the United States indefinitely.

The modern asylum system grew out of a reaction to the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust.  In 1951, the United Nations defined a refugee as any individual not able to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of future persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.  The United States later signed onto this system, and in the 1990s, officially recognized that persecution due to one’s sexual orientation can qualify as a basis for asylum. Continue Reading

Proskauer Hosts Virtual DACA Legal Clinic

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. Continue Reading

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