Brooklyn Boro

Legal groups say Trump has created a need for pro bono advocates

February 10, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Paula Edgar and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and other legal groups have increased their efforts to helping with legal issues involving legal immigration in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive orders. Eagle file photos by Rob Abruzzese
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There is no doubt that the executive orders signed by President Donald Trump have made life harder on immigrants, and as a result it has created a resurgence among advocates who fight on their behalf. However, legal groups say that more help is needed.

“The upside of the challenges surrounding the actions of the new administration has been that there has been a resurgence of advocates within the bar fighting diligently to counteract the effects of the policies,” said Paula Edgar, president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA).

Legal advocates got a break on Thursday night when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against an emergency stay on behalf of the Trump administration that would have reinstated his “Muslim ban,” but that order doesn’t end the fight over the ban. Instead, it merely offers a brief reprieve before the legal fight moves to the U.S. Supreme Court. So while travel restrictions are lifted, it could only be temporary.

While speaking to the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn last Tuesday, immigration attorney Michael DiRaimondo said that there has been a renewed wave of immigrants, particularly children, coming across the Southern border illegally because they fear that Trump will begin construction on a wall along the Mexican border shortly.

He explained that a wave like this will put a burden on courts that are already scheduling hearings for 2019 and 2020 and increases the need for attorneys to take on pro bono asylum cases.

“The children under 18 are coming across — many from countries with persecution problems — are looking for people, and they’ll train people, to do asylum cases and kids cases,” DiRaimondo said. “So if you are interested in doing pro bono work, you can talk to me because we don’t have enough attorneys to do pro bono work.”

Other local legal associations have recognized the problem has started to get worse already and are taking steps to help out. The MBBA, which regularly collaborates with organizations that conduct pro bono initiatives, has stepped up its efforts by promoting its Community Law Days.

“The MBBA has quarterly Community Law Days to enable our members to provide pro bono legal consultation to members of the community on topics including immigration,” Edgar said. “We also have our I Am a Solution series where lawyers, community members and elected officials come together to discuss problems and think about potential solutions to different issues. In the past, the series has been focused on criminal justice. However, the next one will be focused on immigration issues.”

The Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALANY), a legal group that normally advocates on behalf of immigrant issues, has been reaching out to the Muslim community in recent weeks as their concerns have overlapped more than ever. One of the reasons is because the group fears that the “Muslim ban” could lead to more restrictions against immigrants.

“HALANY stands strong with the Muslim community affected by ban,” said Emmanuel Depas, past president of HALANY. “Moving forward we are preparing a pro bono legal clinic to renew applications for TPS, however, the Trump administration has not announced if it will be renewed.

“There are thousands and thousands of Haitian nationals with TPS living in Brooklyn and not renewing TPS is tantamount to this Muslim ban. No TPS means removal and deportation.”


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