Free Legal Services for Children in U.S. Immigration Proceedings
NEW YORK (Sept. 17, 2014) - The international law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP is spearheading “Project Protect,” to train volunteer attorneys to take cases on behalf of immigrant children. The project commenced with a training program, open to attorneys from all firms, at Pace Law School Sept. 17, 2014 in Westchester County, New York. This is the first in what the firm announced as an expansion of its nationwide pro bono initiative on behalf of unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings. In New York City, the firm is again teaming with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Columbia Law School to assist unrepresented litigants in a clinic-like setting at the immigration court’s juvenile docket.
These new projects represent an expansion of the firm's new pro bono initiative announced in April of this year. In partnership with KIND, an organization founded by the Microsoft Corporation and Angelina Jolie, Greenberg Traurig has taken 25 cases in seven offices on behalf of unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings, involving 48 of its attorneys. Thus far, the firm has taken cases in: New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Houston, Boston, and Los Angeles offices.
As explained in the GT Pro Bono Spotlight released in April, children without a parent or legal guardian – no matter how young – are not entitled to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings. These children, many victims of abuse and human trafficking, are in great need of legal services. Greenberg Traurig, with 29 offices across the country engaged in pro bono work, is uniquely positioned to champion this issue by taking multiple cases simultaneously across the country.
PROJECT PROTECT –WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK:
Project Protect is a new initiative to provide training, supervision and mentoring for pro bono attorneys representing immigrant youth. Hundreds of vulnerable children who recently crossed the United States border alone from Central America have been placed in facilities in Westchester County or have been released to relatives. Many of these children are entitled to legal remedies. All of them deserve due process. The first training will take place, September 17, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. at Pace Law School, 78 North Broadway, White Plains, New York. In addition to Greenberg Traurig, this initiative is being spearheaded by the Pace Community Law Practice, the Westchester Hispanic Coalition and the Westchester Bar Association. The training is open to attorneys from all firms.
DOCKET PROJECT WITH COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL and KIND:
Greenberg Traurig is once again partnering with KIND to address the dramatic increase in the numbers of unaccompanied refugee children who have arrived in the New York area over the past few months. This new project, in conjunction with Columbia Law School, will involve volunteer attorneys and law students spending the morning at Immigration Court to provide legal advice to unrepresented children.
KIND has offered to be present at the New York Immigration Court, one or two times per month, to help children who are unrepresented and are seeking information about their rights and how to access counsel. Greenberg Traurig lawyers -- working alone and with Columbia law students -- will assist KIND on the docket days with a variety of tasks including: meeting and greeting the children at the courtroom door; confirming that they are on the docket; determining whether they have counsel; informing them of available services; and screening and conducting intake. Greenberg Traurig lawyers will also take on additional individual cases.
In addition to devoting significant pro bono work to this project, Greenberg Traurig is funding a full-time fellowship position at KIND through Equal Justice Works, a non-profit organization that facilitates two-year fellowships for recent law school graduates pursuing careers in public service. This position is part of a broader fellowship program. As of 2014, Greenberg Traurig will have invested approximately $8 million to support 127 Equal Justice Works Fellows from more than 40 cities across the United States. This makes Greenberg Traurig the largest single funder of the Equal Justice Works fellowship program. Starting in the fall of 2014, Equal Justice Works fellow Samantha Rumsey will work at KIND’s New Jersey office where she will play a leading role in this project in addition to taking on a full docket of cases.
“There is no due process when a child represents him or herself in immigration proceedings,” said William C. Silverman, head of Greenberg Traurig’s pro bono program. “We will continue to expand our pro bono efforts to help meet the unmet legal needs of these children.”