Immigration Project

Defend DACA!

Recent media reports say that the Trump administration is considering ending the administrative program created by President Obama called Defered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but still there are no details regarding how and when that might happen, if it happens at all. This uncertainty is very upsetting and stressful for our clients and their families. Nearly all of the Immigration Project clients are "DREAMers": current high school and college students who were brought to the U.S as children and for whom New York is their hometown. 

President Obama's creation of DACA in 2012 was the result of well-organized and passionate advocacy by DREAMers themselves. We have always known, however, that DACA was a half-measure, a temporary patch on a complex, out-of-date immigration system. Right now there is no path to citizenship for the majority of our clients -- no line for them to get on to "wait their turn." And yet, they have persevered. VOLS' clients are studying nursing, criminal justice, early childhood education, and starting their own businesses. Many would like to enlist in the U.S. armed forces, but are barred by their lack of permanent status. We wish for our young clients the same thing that we wish for all of America's youth: that regardless of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, they have equal opportunities to pursue their passions, make mistakes, and create their own way forward. 

We would like to let our partners, supporters and clients know that whatever happens with DACA, we will continue to fight for what is fair and reasonable: equal access to justice for all New Yorkers and immigration reform that takes into account the current reality of our city and our country.  

Stay strong!

The Immigration Project Team  

 

 

Our Mission 

 The mission of the Immigration Project is to resolve immigration issues for New York City public high school students so that they can work, attend college and have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

 

I've always said lawyers are awesome at what they do, their job isn't easy but when you are working with one, it feels like the clients and the lawyers are an unstoppable force. Gustavo, 19, Immigration Project's client.

 

What we do:

  • Identify high school students who need legal assistance to obtain, or retain, lawful immigration status
  • Recruit, train, and mentor pro bono lawyers to provide legal services to students with viable immigration relief
  • Provide "know your rights" information to students currently unable to regularize their immigration status

VOLS recruits, trains, and mentors pro bono lawyers to help these youth overcome their immigration issues and give them a chance to succeed.

Who we serve:

We develop trust within each school’s community of students, parents, teachers, and administrators by visiting schools and attending parent nights and other functions. With the support of each school’s families and staff, we hope to find remedies to students’ immigration problems early on, before they leave school with no way to attend college or find decent jobs.

They worked with me through everything and nothing felt out of place. And […] this was all done pro bono. […] Now that I have gained my residency, I am overwhelmed by the possibilities. I know what a proper paycheck looks like, my mother can rest easy knowing that my college fees are paid for, and for the first time I have actually cried over my choices, and not my losses. Teonia, 22, Immigration Project's client 

How we work:

Currently, 19 public high schools participate in the project. When we partner with a school, we start by training the staff so they understand the unique challenges immigrant youth face and how they can support their students by connecting them to us. Then we meet each student privately to assess their options and plan a course of action together. When appropriate, we connect students to pro bono lawyers that we train and mentor.

We also go to the schools to hold legal clinics and provide workshops for parents and students, and produce bilingual "know your rights" materials on practical topics. Sharing vital information about immigrant rights protects people from fraud and alleviates fear in our communities.

Collaborating with Law Firms

Our volunteer lawyers are vital to the Project's success.

The Impact:

Providing meaningful pro bono opportunities for lawyers who practice in different areas of law creates more allies to help guarantee fair access to justice for all. Promoting immigration law to major law firm’s pro bono departments has been critical to enhancing access to ethical and free legal assistance for those who cannot afford it and desperately are seeking advice. Thousands of people that otherwise might be victims of fraud have been helped by this project and the lawyers that have donated their time.

I attended the VOLS Pro Bono Guardianship Clinic, where Molly Coe provided me and my colleagues with a comprehensive introduction to the stages of a legal guardianship proceeding and introduced us to an excellent group of children and young adults seeking to begin this process. Her expertise and the VOLS’ staff’s extensive legwork seamlessly facilitated a meaningful pro bono opportunity – I look forward to continuing to represent the young man I met at the clinic. – Pro Bono Volunteer

Our Challenges

Like many of our friends, colleagues and partners in the non-profit sector we struggle to find funding sources for our project. Our distinctive approach to legal services for young immigrants requires expert knowledge to effectively mentor pro bono lawyers and develop creative strategies, because we also take on representation of challenging cases that may not be suited for pro bono. We have invested in quality staff members and want to retain the investment we have made in their professional development.

What can you do?

For more information about how to volunteer or become a school partner, please contact: Elizabeta Markuci, VOLS Immigration Project Director at emarkuci@volsprobono.org or 347.521.5707.

Also, your tax-deductible donations will directly support a young person’s access to justice…then the opportunities are endless.

DONATE

If you need legal assistance, please call the Immigration Project hotline at 347.521.5722.