The Safe Passage Immigration Project is a unique pro bono model. We are part of the Justice Action Center of New York Law School. The project’s co-directors are Professor Lenni B Benson and Adjunct Professor Lindsay A Curcio. Safe Passage trains and mentors pro bono attorneys to represent children needing immigration assistance.
A recent study found that an estimated 43,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children were removed from the US in 2007 and that 50 to 70 percent of unaccompanied minors who appeared before an immigration judge that year did so without legal representation. [Read a PDF of the report here.] Some of these children are escaping abuse or political turmoil in their home countries. Others have been victims of smugglers or trafficking. In some situations, children have lived most their lives in the US unaware that their parents or guardians failed to secure a legal immigration status for them. While these children are entitled to counsel in immigration proceedings, the federal government does not provide this legal representation as immigration is a civil matter.
US immigration laws provide special relief for some, but not all these children. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is extraordinary relief leading to permanent residence for eligible children, teens and young adults under the age of 21. The Safe Passage Immigration Project helps social service providers, foster care agencies and non-profit organizations screen juvenile populations and identify immigration issues and relief available to these children. Safe Passage brings together pro bono attorneys, including New York Law School alumni, and current volunteer law students dedicated to providing direct client services for special immigrant juvenile status cases. Safe Passage continues to monitor each case throughout the process.
New York Law School students may volunteer for the Safe Passage Immigration Project to develop training and intake materials for special immigrant juvenile status cases. Our students also provide language translation assistance between volunteer attorneys and clients and assist in research and case preparation. In addition to their volunteer work with Safe Passage they participate in other immigration events such as clinics and initiatives sponsored by the New York City Bar Association, Justice for Our Neighbors and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
In Spring 2008, Safe Passage received the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Pro Bono Award for its innovative program. For more information about Safe Passage and special immigrant juvenile status, please visit the site, which also contains our current newsletter.
Lindsay A Curcio
New York Law School