No Child in New York City Is Facing Immigration Court Alone
TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2015

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made this announcement on Monday, reporting on the success of New York City’s program for unaccompanied immigrant children of which The Legal Aid Society was a major party.

All unaccompanied immigrant minors who reached New York City illegally now have access to free legal representation, according to the City Council.

Jojo Annobil, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said the case of every child arriving in the United States was different—but dismissed the idea from some that they were arriving simply because of President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration (on hold in the courts at the moment) or other U.S. policies. He said when someone is willing to jump onto a moving train and risk death to get here, it’s for a good reason.

“That person is not coming just because they want to see another country,” he said. “They are coming because they are fleeing something. They are fleeing terror. They are fleeing violence.”




Observer
Mark-Viverito: ‘We Have to Humanize’ Immigration Debate
By Jillian Jorgensen
07/20/15

Despite oft-heated rhetoric surrounding immigration issues in the United States, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said today she was still hoping other cities around the nation might follow New York’s lead in providing lawyers to undocumented children arriving in the country without their parents.

“We have to humanize this issue,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said today at a City Hall press conference. “You look at the faces of these children, these are the stories you have to hear. These are the individuals you have to hear from—you have to hear the horrors and the tragedies and the violence they’re trying to evade.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito was standing with attorneys, advocates, and young children who had fled from violence in nations like El Salvador to New York. Thanks to a program she rolled out a year ago, those children—and all unaccompanied minors arriving in New York—are receiving legal help to allow them to fight deportation and apply for asylum based on the violence they ran from.

The speaker has worked to make immigration reform—locally and nationally —a central focus, and the struggle of undocumented children, which she deemed “heartbreaking ” after a tour of court proceedings last year, has been a key issue where the city was able to take its own action without the federal government. Children without attorneys are much more likely to be deported, and before the program was launched, there was no guarantee of legal representation.

Ms. Mark-Viverito has also knocked Republicans for comments about immigrants, most recently calling Donald Trump the GOP’s “head clown ” for saying rapists and criminals were entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico. But she despite such comments, she thought New York’s efforts were already having influence in other cities.

“A lot of times voice is given, too much voice is given to those that hate,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said. “I don’t think that’s the overwhelming sentiment of this country.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito, who recently traveled to Phoenix to talk immigration and has vowed to energize Latino voters to make it an issue in the 2016 race, said she was looking into ways to help other municipalities understand how New York’s program was structured—spending $2.5 million in Council funds and leveraging partnerships with non-profit legal service providers and groups like the Robin Hood Foundation.

“There are other areas that do have an influx of unaccompanied minors and those children need help,” she said.

But in New York, the influx of unaccompanied minors has greatly slowed, she said, and there was no evidence immigrants would flock here to avail themselves of legal services.

“In terms of the surge that happened last year, we don’t see anything near that this year,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

Nonetheless, she said the program would remain active to deal with any additional unaccompanied children who do arrive—and to continue working on behalf of those already here.

“Obviously these cases are complicated cases ,and going through the court process it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in months,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

Jojo Annobil, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit, said the case of every child arriving in the United States was different—but dismissed the idea from some that they were arriving simply because of President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration (on hold in the courts at the moment) or other U.S. policies. He said when someone is willing to jump onto a moving train and risk death to get here, it’s for a good reason.

“That person is not coming just because they want to see another country,” he said. “They are coming because they are fleeing something. They are fleeing terror. They are fleeing violence.”




City Providing Legal Services to All Immigrant Minors
The Associated Press
July 21, 2015

All unaccompanied immigrant minors who reached New York City illegally now have access to free legal representation, according to the City Council.

"No child in New York City is facing immigration court alone," said speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at City Hall Monday, nearly a year after the council started an initiative in response to a flood of immigrant children fleeing Latin America for the United States.

The New York City Council Unaccompanied Minors Initiative has screened more than 1,600 immigrants, taken on 648 cases directly and won 14 asylum cases.

The program is a partnership between the council and two nonprofits: The Robin Hood Foundation, which is providing $550,000; and the New York Community Trust, which has pledged $360,000. The council is providing the largest chunk of funding—$1 million—from funds earmarked for legal services in the 2014-15 budget.

The money is allocated to eight legal services providers that have volunteered to help children through their initial court hearings. The funds are used to hire more attorneys and support staff to offer the children long-term representation. Agencies receiving funding are Legal Aid Society, The Door, Catholic Charities Community Services, New York Law School's Safe Passage Project, Make the Road New York, Central American Legal Assistance, Kids in Need of Defense, and Atlas: DIY (NYLJ, Sept. 24, 2014 ).

The initiative was announced after federal Immigration Court began holding a daily surge docket to speed deportations of undocumented Central American children.




Immigration Reform News
NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Applauds Initative Providing Aid to Undocumented Migrant Children
By Selena Hill Jul 20, 2015

Melissa Mark-Viverito is the first Latina to serve as New York City Council Speaker. (Photo : Flickr/City Year)

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is expected to make an announcement Monday highlighting the success of a city initiative that provides undocumented children in NYC with free legal representation and protection from deportation.

Since it began last September, the "Unaccompanied Minors Initiative" has given free legal aid to hundreds of undocumented children who fled Central America last summer and ended up in New York City.

"One year ago, we said we had an obligation to help these children who flee unspeakable violence and today I am proud to announce that we have. Too many children who escaped horrific conditions are facing unequal access to lawyers across the country," said Mark-Viverito in a statement Sunday evening, reports Capital New York .

According to the City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, all of the minors who ended up in the Big Apple now have legal representation, while over 1,600 immigrants have been screened through the program. The Speaker's office also revealed that lawyers have taken on nearly 650 cases and won 14 asylum petitions in the past year. In addition, the $1.9 million initiative has successfully provided the minors with access to social services and free public education.

"New York City stepped and resolved the unaccompanied minors representation crisis here-now it's time for others to follow. There is no excuse for failing these vulnerable children," said the Puerto-Rican American official in a statement to the Observer . "Too many children who escaped horrific conditions are facing unequal access to lawyers across the country."

The council has allocated an extra $1.5 million for the program, which was paid for with city funding and private contributions, for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Although tax dollars were used to pay for attorneys, the Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Community Trust has also allocated $900,000, while Catholic Charities Community Service of the Archdiocese of New York, the Legal Aid Society and Make the Road worked to connect the childnren with lawyers and social services.

"It is a pleasure to one year later see some of the affected young people enrolled in school, reconnected with loved ones, and on their way to success," said NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca. "I hope we can continue to recommit to ending the circumstances that would allow for children to end up in those dark days again."