Our community is in a crisis. Whether you define “community” as our country, our state, our region, or our city, we are in crisis, and we need to solve it as a community because this is a crisis about children.
In less than a year, tens of thousands of children have been detained seeking refuge in the United States. These children predominantly come from Central America, a region that has a long standing sisterhood with the Greater New Orleans Area. These children are fleeing some of the most extreme violence and poverty in the world. If they are lucky, they are detained for a time by DHS and eventually placed with families, maybe distantly related families. While they are safe from the conditions in their home countries, they and the families that have taken them in now face a new set of challenges. They must now navigate a strange city, strange schools, a strange language, and a strange, complex and vast legal system.
In concert with a great number of people and groups in our city, I ask you to join in my project “PB&J: Pro Bono and Juveniles” an effort to recruit and match pro bono attorneys with immigrant children who have recently crossed the U.S. Southern border and who cannot afford legal services.
As a community we can support them and help them find their way. We ask those of you who are attorneys to share your knowledge and advocacy. We ask those of you who are bilingual to share your gifts for translation and understanding. We ask all of you to share your compassion to help these children.
Many of these children qualify for relief from removal in the form of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) protects children who are abused, neglected, or abandoned by their caregivers. When Congress created SIJS, it provided an alternative to deportation for these children with an avenue to remain in the United States lawfully. The process of pursuing SIJS requires proceedings in both state court and before government agencies.
While the process may seem daunting, it is surmountable. With the cooperation of the AILA-Mid South Chapter, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baton Rouge, and the hospitality of the Hispanic Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the immigration law firm of Ware|Gasparian will be chairing a CLE on SIJS and Unaccompanied Minors to the general bar. The CLE will be free. Attendees will be asked to either take on a case pro bono or commit to serving as a mentor in immigration or family law. At the conclusion of the CLE, attorneys will be matched with a case that has been pre-screened for legal sufficiency and financial need.
Attorneys who take on a case pro bono will be supported in a number of ways. We are recruiting volunteers from the community to translate documents and to be available to provide pro bono translations services for the case. Attorneys will receive templates of pleadings and the foundational resources needed to handle SIJS in state court and before government agencies. Attorneys will have access to mentoring from experienced practitioners to help see the case to completion. The Hispanic Apostolate of New Orleans is also providing monthly meeting space, including a computer lab, where attorneys can meet with mentors or their clients and translators. In time, we hope to have the monthly meeting time evolve with additional access to other services.
The CLE is scheduled for September 4, 2014 at the Hispanic Apostolate of New Orleans. On September 5, 2014, there will be a resource orientation program for families that have taken in unaccompanied minors hosted by Catholic Charities at the Hispanic Apostolate as well. We hope that attorneys and volunteers will be able to attend the program on September 5th to meet their new clients in person.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org For more information, including a schedule of the CLE and registration form, please visit http://www.david-ware.com/pbandjnola
We are looking for
• Bilingual volunteers help us gather information from the children and the families they live with for threshold eligibility
• Bilingual volunteers to serve as translators between attorneys and clients through the course of the case
• Bilingual volunteers to assist with document translation
• Experienced attorneys to help screen cases for legal sufficiency
• Attorneys to take cases pro bono
• Law students to assist attorneys on pro bono cases
• Experienced attorneys to serve as mentors
Please join with us to help solve this crisis and to help the children of our community. I would also ask that you forward this information to anyone who may be interested.
Kathleen C. Gasparian, Esq.
3850 N. Causeway Blvd.
Metairie Louisiana 70002-1752
Phone: (504) 830 – 5900
Fax: (504) 830 – 5909