On May 7, 2018, the United States implemented the “zero tolerance” family separation policy, directing immigration authorities to systematically separate children from their parents at the border, a practice that had been ongoing as early as November 2017. The stated purpose of this policy was to deter future migrants from attempting to cross the border, including migrants seeking asylum in the United States fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries. Although the government formally ended the policy in June 2018 following widespread public outcry, many hundreds of children remain separated from their parents. To address this problem, on February 2, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order in an effort to reunite children separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border. Numerous nonprofit agencies and law firms, including Proskauer, have stepped forward to help victims of family separation obtain humanitarian parole and become reunited with their families.
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.
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.
Pervasive anti-LGBTQ violence around the world causes many individuals to flee their countries of origin in search of safety. The past few years have been tremendously difficult for immigrants of all walks of life, but especially so for LGBTQ and HIV-affected asylum applicants who have fled to the United States…
I recently joined the board of Her Justice, a nonprofit legal services organization in New York City and longtime partner of Proskauer that provides assistance to women and their families living in poverty who have high-stakes legal needs.
I was introduced to the organization by a friend and former colleague, and over the past few years have come to understand their mission and approach. Seeing the many women in our city experiencing pain and fear due to unaffordable housing, parenting children with insufficient income or job prospects, abandonment, and abuse, I felt compelled to become more involved.
The staff lawyers at Her Justice train and supervise thousands of volunteer lawyers who are mobilized to help women in need throughout New York City. In 2018 alone, Her Justice organized more than 76,000 volunteer hours helping nearly 10,000 women and children.
In A Nation of Immigrants, President John F. Kennedy traced America’s mixed record of embracing new immigrants, and then emphasized the benefits of immigration as he argued in favor of reforming the system. “Nativism failed,” he concluded, “not because the seeds were not there to be cultivated, but because American society is too complex for an agitation so narrowly and viciously conceived to be politically successful.”
More than 50 years later, American society has grown more complex but now finds itself with increasingly restrictive immigration policies. During a panel discussion hosted at Proskauer’s New York office this month, Valarie McPherson, Savanna Sosa and I surveyed recent developments in immigration policy, especially as they relate to restricting asylum, and shared insights from our recent trip to Mexico, and Jeremy Robbins, the executive director of New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan advocacy and research organization, addressed how we can change the immigration narrative for real reform.
For low-income families with disabled children, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is critically important to the safety and security of their households. Navigating the difficult claims process without legal counsel, however, too often leads to the wrong result. This was exactly the case for one immigrant mother who—after a painful and complicated divorce—was unable to afford medical treatments for her 14-year-old son suffering from ADHD. After an unsuccessful first attempt to apply for SSI benefits, she sought help from Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), which paired her with a team of Proskauer lawyers who secured the benefits that she and her son desperately needed and deserved.
The Proskauer team, led by corporate associate Ben Sacks, was tasked with meeting the stringent criteria for SSI benefits. In order to qualify, an applicant must establish both medical documentation for the disability and evidence of limitations. In the case of applicants with ADHD, judges typically look to academic records when considering limitations. This created a challenge for our client who had good grades—particularly in math—but was struggling in other ways at school. Ben and the Proskauer team understood that they had to make clear that academic records were the wrong measure of how ADHD impacted this boy’s life. The argument was thus re-centered around the other struggles he had in school, such as ploys for attention, lack of focus in class despite his good grades, and issues outside of the classroom.
Thousands of women in the United States, who never knowingly or intentionally entered the sex industry, find themselves trapped in a world of unspeakable abuse. These women, whether in illicit massage parlors or other abhorrent situations, are routinely arrested despite being the victims – while traffickers and buyers with actual culpability routinely are not.
To understand their plight, imagine you are a single parent with three children, recently unemployed, and faced with mounting debt. You see an online advertisement for a work opportunity in a neighboring country with a thriving restaurant industry. You can split rent with other workers, send home earnings, and return to your children as soon as your debts are repaid. To sweeten the offer, the employment agency covers airfare, handles immigration papers, secures an employer, and arranges housing, all at a fee that you can pay off over the course of your work engagement. It seems your prayers have been answered; you leave hopeful and determined for the United States.