February 2, 2019

NYS Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of New York launch statewide pro bono project to expand legal services for immigrants


NYS Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of New York launch statewide pro bono project to expand legal services for immigrants
Source: New York State's press release system

New York State’s Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York today announced the formal launch of a new platform to support Catholic Charities and the Liberty Defense Project's Pro Bonoprogram.   

This first-of-its-kind statewide project in New York identifies immigration cases through community legal clinics and refers them to volunteer legal representatives, increasing statewide access to free legal services for low-income and vulnerable immigrants.

The URL https://www.catholiccharitiesnyprobono.org is the projects Internet site and is funded by the Liberty Defense Project. The site provides volunteers with the tools to competently and effectively assist the most vulnerable immigrants. This all-inclusive site provides volunteers with the ability to review available cases, sign up for short-term and case placement volunteer opportunities, learn more about the work of the Pro Bono Project and access a wealth of training materials and practice templates. The online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based training, with new materials added as needed.

Every Pro Bono Project volunteer advocate will receive expert legal training and mentorship in each stage of a case and at each service event in which they choose to participate, so that each client will receive the highest quality assistance in furtherance of Catholic Charities’ mission to recognize the dignity of each person and strive for a just and compassionate society.

Through the Pro Bono Project, Catholic Charities assists volunteer advocates to:

● Prepare affirmative asylum applications for individuals afraid to return to their homes;

● Litigate asylum cases for mothers and children fleeing gang violence in Central America;

● Help unaccompanied immigrant children obtain special humanitarian protection due to abuse, neglect or abandonment;

● Empower survivors of violence to find safety, stability, and status through US immigration laws designed to protect victims of crime, trafficking, and familial abuse;

● Assist immigrants to reunify with family members, both here and through overseas processing.

On the website volunteers can choose to express their interest as well as search and review available cases that need legal representation. The Pro Bono Project recruits and engages volunteer attorneys in numerous ways including bi-monthly newsletters, building on existing law firm relationships as well as creating new partnerships with firms through outreach, engagement with local bar associations throughout New York State, and individual connectivity with private bar attorneys who express interest through a variety of channels, agency-wide. Private bar pro bono volunteer advocates’ (PBVAs) caseload will be approximately one to two cases per volunteer attorney, where firms will see more of a variance, on average, two to ten per firm.

As of February 1, 2019, Catholic Charities has placed 105 pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys throughout New York State. Its Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate network has grown to more than 230 dedicated volunteer attorneys, and more than 600 New Yorkers reached out to Catholic Charities following the family separation crisis last summer to learn about how they could support efforts, including more than 265 attorneys expressing interest in joining the Pro Bono Project.

In 2017, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project – the first-in-the-nation, state-led public-private project to assist immigrants – regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The project is administered by the Governor’s Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, major colleges and universities and bar associations. 

The Liberty Defense Project provides:

● Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York State.

● Direct representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as other cases.

● Help with filing immigration applications for naturalization, employment authorization, permanent residency, etc.

● "Know Your Rights" training for immigrants and the community at large.



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