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Volunteer Lawyers Project trying to help kids in immigration proceedings

August 1, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Volunteer Lawyers Project will host a CLE that encourages attorneys to take on child immigration cases pro bono. Pictured are Sarah Burrows, pro bono manager at VLP; and Kaavya Viswanathan, who will present the program later this month. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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As children are receiving the brunt of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that separates parents from their children, the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project is trying to rally local attorneys to try to help.

VLP is hosting a continuing legal education program titled “Representing Children in Immigration Proceedings” at Abrams Fensterman in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday, Aug. 15. The seminar is worth two CLE credits and is free for anyone who signs up to do pro bono work.

There is no right to counsel in immigration proceedings, even for children, and children without representation are five times more likely to be deported, according to VLP.

“A lot of our cases involve children who came into this country illegally, but have a path to a green card or citizenship if they can get an attorney,” said Kaavya Viswanathan at a similar event VLP hosted in July 2017. “However, they are ineligible to have one appointed to them and would likely be deported even though, legally, they are eligible to remain in the U.S.”

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Kaavya Viswanathan, the pro bono managing attorney from The Door’s Legal Services Center, will be on hand for the two-hour event to discuss the various aspects of representing children during immigration proceedings and the unique challenges they face.

The training is expected to cover common forms of legal relief available for children, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum, and will explain to attorneys how they can obtain such relief.

“Pro bono representation is crucial for these children,” Viswanathan said. “They are not entitled to appointed counsel in immigration court and these cases are extremely high stakes. If these children are deported, they will be returned to countries where there is nobody to look after them, where maybe gangs are looking for them to try to hurt or kill them.

“By taking these cases you are making a significant difference in their lives in terms of letting them stay in the U.S. and opening up doors to education to careers that wouldn’t be available to them in their home countries,” she continued. “Many times it is a life or death difference which makes this work extremely rewarding.”


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