The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Sending Campers to Experience Summer with the Fresh Air Fund

Growing up as a kid in the Bronx, my greatest memories were the summers my sisters and I spent upstate in the Catskills. The grit and graffiti (this was the 70’s!), concrete and sirens, were left behind for something that felt otherworldly and magical. To this day, when I smell freshly cut grass or hear the summer cicadas I immediately am transported to those endless days by rivers, exploring forest paths and getting up on my first horse. The stories of our adventures came back with me to share excitedly with my pals in the schoolyard, and kept my imagination soaring until the next time.

Jennifer Talbott (left) and Liz Bernard hand out snack packs at the summer send-off event.

So when I got the opportunity to join my colleagues for a send-off to the boys and girls in the Fresh Air Fund Friendly Town program, I felt such a deep sense of gratitude that I could be a part of the experience that I knew was about to change these kids’ lives. I learned that The Fresh Air Fund has been sending NYC kids from low-income communities off to amazing summer adventures with volunteer host families for 141 years. (Yes, the first kids left on horse and buggy!) Sitting in a designated area of Port Authority, our “job” was to entertain these kids while they waited for the busses to take them to their respective Friendly Town families for the week by playing games like UNO – which they had to teach us…and they won…every time. Mostly we just chatted and laughed and heard their enthusiasms and some of their worries as many of them were leaving their families for the first time. I was completely blown away by these smart, open-minded, creative little souls from all different ethnicities and backgrounds, spilling their feverishness out the way only children are able.

By the end of this volunteering experience, as is always the case with our For Good program activities, I was the one who received the blessing and the care and the love that I sought to give.

Guiding Hospitals in Providing Ethical Health Care to Intersex Patients

Today, an increasing number of medical practitioners are recognizing the importance of providing appropriate, non-discriminatory, and patient-centered health care to people born with intersex traits.  “Intersex” is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of inborn variations in sex characteristics that do not seem to fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Considered a sex and gender minority by the National Institutes of Health, between 0.05 percent and 1.7 percent of the population is born with intersex traits.

Care of intersex individuals, particularly children, demands special attention to avoid biases based on outdated understandings of sex and gender. To assist hospitals in offering intersex-affirming health care, pro bono attorneys at Proskauer teamed up with nonprofit legal organizations interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth and Lambda Legal to create an educational policy guide designed to better educate hospitals about the unique needs of intersex patients and address the bias and insensitivity intersex patients and their families all too often face in a health care setting. Continue Reading

Hunger in New York City and How We Can Help

On a daily basis we are inundated with news and information from all over the world. My morning paper, evening news, and daily smartphone alerts are primarily focused on the United States’ political climate, natural disasters, violence, and other harrowing stories of people in need. Our newsfeed can seem to create a barrier between us and those we could help. I often feel it seems that those most in need are furthest from our reach. Yet it is important to remember how much work there is to be done right outside our own doors.

Prior to joining the Corporate Social Responsibility team at Proskauer this spring, I spent three years working in fundraising and development at Citymeals on Wheels. While the projects I worked on varied, I always took pride in knowing that my work supported Citymeals’ mission of providing nutritious meals to homebound seniors in need. People are often surprised by the scale of Citymeals’ work. The organization delivers to more than 18,000 elderly New Yorkers, resulting in over 2 million meals every year. And while these numbers are truly staggering, Citymeals’ recipients only account for a small percentage of New Yorkers who face the growing struggles of food insecurity. Continue Reading

New USCIS Policy Threatens Public Safety

A recent change in immigration policy is adversely impacting a vulnerable population, and is likely to have a chilling effect on immigrants reporting crime and cooperating with law enforcement. Undocumented immigrant victims of domestic abuse, who prior to the updated guidance could freely file petitions for U Nonimmigrant status or Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions without fear of bringing on deportation proceedings, now may suffer the very real repercussions of an unfavorable petition or application.  If unsuccessful, they now face a mandated issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA), which is the charging document that initiates removal proceedings.

In a letter dated June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued “Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens.” Policy Memorandum 602-0050.1, in pertinent part, provides updated guidelines regarding USCIS’s issuances of NTAs in Immigration Court. The new guidelines serve to ensure conformity with Executive Order 13768, and replaced, in its entirety, Policy Memorandum 602-00550 published in November 2011. Continue Reading

Public Service and Summer Associates: A Q&A with Caroline Menes, Legal Recruiting Officer

Wendy Dessy, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility: What role does public service play in Proskauer’s summer program?

Caroline: Proskauer has a longstanding tradition of public service, and I’m proud to call it a big part of our summer program.  After Hurricane Katrina, we sent summer associates from every office to New Orleans to help with the clean-up. We worked with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for those who lost their homes. Proskauer has an office in New Orleans. It was very important for us to support our colleagues and their surrounding community during that critical time, and we went back to New Orleans for three years.  That is just my favorite example, but every year all of our summer associates are encouraged to get involved in some form of public service.

Wendy: Do you provide pro bono opportunities for summer associates?

Caroline: Pro bono is an important part of Proskauer’s culture. Summer associates have advocated for domestic violence survivors seeking orders of protection in New York City family courts alongside attorneys from Sanctuary for Families, and they have drafted petitions to seal the decades-old criminal records of low-income New Yorkers as a means of removing barriers to employment and housing. One summer associate teamed up with a Proskauer attorney to help an immigrant survivor of domestic violence petition for her child to obtain a visa in the hope of reuniting in the United States after three years of separation. Another summer associate assisted in drafting a film production contract for the Universal Hip Hop Museum. Continue Reading

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

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