Posts Categorized: Boston Bar Foundation

Six Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

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If you’re looking to give back this holiday season, look no further! The BBA and BBF have a number of ways for you to support our community:

  • Donate to the BBF Annual Campaign: Generous community members like you make our essential work in the community possible. Each year, thousands of children, adults and families in Greater Boston are thankful for the access to justice and unique educational opportunities that they receive because of generous donors to the BBF. Contribute today to make an impact.
  • Mark your calendars for Walk to the Hill: Join hundreds of private attorneys and civil legal aid advocates at the Massachusetts State House on January 28th to demonstrate your support for state funding of civil legal aid. Be sure to stop by the BBA at 10 am to meet up with other attorneys before heading over to the event. Click here to learn more.
  • Use AmazonSmile: AmazonSmile is a way for you to give back to the BBF in a small way as you finish up your holiday shopping. Just go to smile.amazon.com and log in using your normal Amazon account name and password. Then select the Boston Bar Foundation as your charity and shop as you normally would. The BBF will receive a small percentage of the proceeds from your purchase.
  • Buy a ticket to Adams Benefit: Join the BBF for the John & Abigail Adams Benefit on January 30th at the Museum of Fine Arts for an unforgettable night of live entertainment, gourmet food and beverages and beautiful galleries and exhibits. 100% of the proceeds from the Adams Benefit will be used for direct grants to organizations that serve thousands of individuals and families struggling with issues such as homelessness, domestic violence and various forms of injustice. Learn more about the event and how you can purchase tickets here.
  • Join the BBF’s Society of Fellows: When you join the BBF’s Society of Fellows, you join a community of more than 400 of Boston’s leading attorneys who are committed to investing in our city’s future. Fellows pledge to make contributions to the BBF’s permanent endowment so that the BBF can continue its work in our community. Fellows receive exclusive invitations throughout the year to attend networking events and receptions, and come together to hear from representatives of BBF grantee organizations, public service volunteers and other inspirational speakers. Contact Tara Trask at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

Society of Fellows Celebrates Support of Veterans

 Society of Fellows Co-Chair Tom Gallitano (Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP) introduced the speaker for the evening, Anna Schleelein Richardson, Co-Executive Director of Veterans Legal Services

Society of Fellows Co-Chair Tom Gallitano (Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP) introduced the speaker for the evening, Anna Schleelein Richardson, Co-Executive Director of Veterans Legal Services.

Last Thursday, the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows held an Open House that brought together current Fellows as well those interested in learning more about joining the Society. As our Beyond the Billable fans may remember, the Society is a group of more than 400 lawyers dedicated to supporting the BBF’s work of improving our community through public service and expanding access to justice for underserved populations.

In honor of Pro Bono Month, Anna Schleelein Richardson, Co-Executive Director of Veterans Legal Services (VLS), spoke about the positive impact of the BBF’s funding to support VLS’s work providing comprehensive legal services to veterans and military families and the prevailing unmet need amongst veterans for high-quality legal services.

“I have been continually impressed by this organization’s commitment to making sure veterans get the legal help that they need,” Anna told the crowd, noting that the BBA’s Military and Veterans Legal Help Line served more than 350 veterans and their families in the last year alone. “The BBF has supported VLS for over a decade.”

VLS is just one of the many community organizations that the BBF will support this year. In total, the BBF is granting $950,000 to 23 community organizations, helping thousands of individuals and families struggling with issues such as homelessness, domestic violence and other forms of injustice. This is in addition to the BBF funding the entire year’s portfolio of BBA Public Service Programs, including Law Day in the Schools and trainings to equip hundreds of attorneys to take on pro bono cases.

Anna noted that without the crucial funding provided by the BBF, the veterans she serves at VLS “are at risk of losing their homes, families or basic subsistence if they do not have access to representation.”

Thanks to the support of the BBF’s funding, VLS was able to assist nearly 450 veterans and their family members last year. The BBF’s work is made possible because of the continued commitment of the Society of Fellows. Click here to learn more about the work that the Society supports or click here to join the Society of Fellows today!

BBF Funds Record Number Summer Jobs

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This year the BBF will be funding 15 positions in legal service and government agencies.

 

As you may remember, the Boston Bar Foundation funds positions for Boston public high school students in government and legal service agencies each summer through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. This year, the BBF will be funding 15 positions—the highest number yet thanks to the help of a number of Boston-based law offices:

  • Arrowood Peters LLP*
  • Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C.
  • EMC
  • Hemenway & Barnes LLP
  • Peabody & Arnold LLP
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP*

* Partial sponsorship

In addition to supporting Boston public high school students, these sponsored positions will also support legal service organizations and government agencies by providing additional help in a busy office environment.

So where will these student be working this summer? Take a look below at some of the placement organizations:

  • Committee for Public Counsel Services**
  • Legal Advocacy and Resource Center**
  • Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards
  • Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services
  • Massachusetts Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts
  • Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
  • Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court
  • U.S. District Court**
  • Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association**

**Hosting two students

Stay tuned throughout the summer as we update you on the students’ experiences.

Attorneys Bet the House on BBA Summer Jobs Program

200 attorneys came out to test out their gambling skills and to support the BBA Summer Jobs Program at the 6th Annual Casino Night Fundraiser last Thursday night.

200 attorneys came out to test out their gambling skills and to support the BBA Summer Jobs Program at the 6th Annual Casino Night Fundraiser last Thursday night.

Last Thursday night, the BBA replaced its meeting room tables with craps, roulette, blackjack, and poker tables for the Boston Bar Foundation’s 6th Annual Casino Night for Summer Jobs. As we mentioned in this post, 100 percent of the proceeds from the event support the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund to pay for summer jobs for Boston teens in government and nonprofit organizations each summer.

Thanks to our sponsors, ticket holders and our silent auction winners the BBF raised nearly $35,000 last night to support the BBA Summer Jobs Program, and put 13 students to work this summer! Click here to see a full list of the 2015 Casino Night sponsors.

This year’s event featured a raffle, snacks and drinks, and authentic casino games that gave the 200 attendees a chance to test out their gambling skills. As always, the famed silent auction table got heated as bidding wars broke out over prize packages including luxury box seats to the Celtics, hotel stays on the cape, and various Boston adventures. The most sought after package included a private butchering lesson at The Butcher Shop, a hand crafted cutting board from Birch Barn Designs and a gift certificate to the South End Formaggio that went for a winning bid of $450.

So who were the big winners of the evening? Rob Lashway (Floyd Advisory, LLC), Andy Caffrey (Birnbaum & Godkin, LLP), and Jen Lynn (Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young, LLP) “cashed in” the most chips at the end of the evening. However, the real winners are the Boston teens who get the opportunity to earn money and gain professional experience by interning in a legal office this summer.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Public Service Spotlight: Harvard Law School’s Low Income Tax Clinic

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With less than 30 days until April 15th, most people have taxes on our mind. They’re pulling out our W2s, firing up their e-filing software and booking time with their accountants. But what happens when tax complications arise that are beyond your resources to manage?

Low-income taxpayer clinics have been described as a “life preserver,” often keeping households afloat when faced with tax issues that could devastate them financially. The Boston Bar Foundation is proud to support the new Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC) of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

“Low-income taxpayers face tax problems as frequently as wealthier taxpayers,” said Daniel Nagin, Faculty Director of the Legal Services Center. “However, low-income taxpayers frequently lack information and resources to respond effectively to tax problems.”

Adding to this is the fact that, given the specialized nature of tax practice, there are too few pro bono tax law programs to meet the enormous need for representation in low-income communities.

The result, says Nagin, is that too often taxpayers must fend for themselves. In doing so, they may fail to raise available defenses to IRS claims, and can feel overwhelmed by a complex and intimidating system.

Nagin also noted that while tax problems affect many low-income populations, certain subgroups are particularly in need.

“Since opening our Veterans Legal Clinic in 2012, we have been contacted by significant numbers of low-income veterans who face tax problems, and we have been encouraged by veterans’ service providers to expand resources in this area.  Veterans who need legal representation on tax matters will continue to be a population we prioritize in the LITC.”

Once fully staffed with a director on board this summer, the LITC will help fill these critical access to justice gaps, providing direct representation to low-income taxpayers in IRS controversies at the agency level and before the Tax Court. Representing taxpayers in such cases will not only provide much-needed financial relief, but also provide peace of mind to those who would otherwise have the daunting task of responding to the IRS pro se.

Calling All Legal Services Organizations–The BBF Is Now Accepting 2015 Grants Applications

The Volunteer Lawyers Project is a 2014 BBF Grantee. The BBA also supports grantees in other capacities including holding pro bono trainings and recruiting volunteers for their efforts. In the photo above, staff from the Volunteer Lawyers Project discuss volunteer opportunities with interested law students at the Suffolk Pro Bono Fair in October.

The Volunteer Lawyers Project is a 2014 BBF Grantee. The BBA also supports grantees in other capacities including holding pro bono trainings and recruiting volunteers for their efforts. In the photo above, staff from the Volunteer Lawyers Project discuss volunteer opportunities with interested law students at the Suffolk Pro Bono Fair in October.

The Boston Bar Foundation (BBF) has released its application for the 2015 grants cycle. As you probably know, the BBF grants support programs and organizations that advance access to legal services, improve fair administration of justice, and help expand public understanding of the law. Combined with money raised from events such as the John & Abigail Adams Benefit, the BBF grants its portion of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funds to legal service organizations. However, in response to the decline in IOLTA funding, the BBF has stepped up and increased its commitment to funding legal services by granting a greater portion of its own fundraising. Last year the BBF’s contributions were almost half of the total funds granted.

So how does the grant making process work? Beyond the Billable is bringing you a firsthand look at how the grant decisions are made. Take a look below:

The members of the BBF Grants Committee spend countless hours reviewing each application, discussing the current needs within legal services and the Greater Boston area, and examining emerging issues affecting low-income individuals in our community. While reviewing applications, the BBF Grants Committee looks for organizations that:

  • Provide civil legal services to low-income people and/or underserved populations, especially organizations and programs that address an unmet legal need.
  • Develop or strengthen pro bono programs through which the private bar delivers substantial voluntary legal services to low-income and underserved populations.
  • Demonstrably enhance the administration of justice in Massachusetts (i.e. improve the courts’ effectiveness, address systemic problems in the court system or provide information to low-income, underserved or special needs populations regarding their legal rights and/or accessibility to the courts).

Last year, the BBF granted $825,500 to 23 community legal service providers. Among the grantees are organizations working to assist low-income families and individuals who face problems relating to immigration, domestic violence, and homelessness, as well as increasingly prevalent issues such as human trafficking and environmental justice. To learn more about last year’s grantees, please check out our website.

Please contact the BBA/BBF Public Service Manager Sonia Shah at [email protected] if you have any questions about the BBF grant process.

Mark Your Calendars: Casino Night for Summer Jobs

The Boston Bar Foundation's annual Casino Night helps fund positions for Boston teens at legal service and government agencies.

The Boston Bar Foundation’s annual Casino Night helps fund positions for Boston teens at legal service and government agencies.

Don’t miss the chance to show off your poker skills and support a good cause at the Boston Bar Foundation’s Casino Night on March 12th. The offices of the BBA will be transformed into a two-story casino, complete with real game tables, professional dealers, a silent auction, live entertainment, and complimentary refreshments. More importantly, the proceeds from the event will fund internships for Boston public high school students working at legal service and government agencies through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. In addition to providing Boston teens with professional experience and a paycheck, the BBF funded students offer office assistance to organizations that need extra help but can’t afford to hire a student on their own.  To get a first-hand account of our BBF funded students’ experiences, click here.

We hope to see you on March 12th!

BBF Honors John Hancock with 2015 Public Service Award

Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer James Gallagher, accepted the BBF's 2015 Public Service Award on behalf of his company for John Hancock’s commitment to the Boston community at Saturday's John and Abigail Adams Benefit.

Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer James Gallagher, accepted the BBF’s 2015 Public Service Award on behalf John Hancock at Saturday’s John and Abigail Adams Benefit.

If you were one of the 1,000 attorneys who got dressed up and came out to the Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday night for the John and Abigail Adam’s Benefit, you probably saw John Hancock receive the 2015 Boston Bar Foundation Public Service Award. The award, which was accepted by Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer James Gallagher, honored John Hancock’s commitment to the Boston community. This year will mark the 30th year of John Hancock’s well known and landmark sponsorship of the Boston Marathon.  As part of that sponsorship, they donate hundreds of entries to area non-profits to help them raise money for causes ranging from state of the art medical care to homelessness.  Perhaps not as well-known are the company’s efforts to support and empower Boston youth through the MLK Summer Scholars Program– a cause shared by the Boston Bar Association and Foundation.

Every year, the BBA and our participating employers join hundreds of other employers throughout the city who are committed to Boston future by providing summer jobs to Boston teens through the Mayor Walsh’s Summer Jobs Program.  John Hancock is another all-star employer. Through the MLK Summer Scholars Program, John Hancock provides grants to local non-profits to hire over 650 Boston teens every summer!

If you’re feeling inspired by John Hancock’s generosity, don’t forget that your legal office has an opportunity to support Boston teens through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. Click here to learn more and to view the 29 employers who have already committed to hiring 43 Boston teens this summer.

A Year in Photos: BBA Public Service

The BBA had another year full of public service. For a look back at our members’ work in the community, take a look at the photos below:

The John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $640,000 last January to help fund grants to 23 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas, such as domestic violence and homelessness.

The John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $640,000 last January to help fund grants to 23 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas, such as domestic violence and homelessness. The BBF honored Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino with the Public Service Award for his commitment to the City of Boston, including his efforts to find employment for thousands of Boston teens each summer.

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program celebrated its 10th anniversary this past year by providing financial education to students in 18 high schools statewide.

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program celebrated its 10th anniversary this past year by providing financial education to students in 18 high schools statewide.

The BBF’s popular Casino Night had a new twist this year—100 percent of the proceeds supported the BBA Summer Jobs Program. As you may remember, the BBF funds paid internships for Boston high school students in nonprofit and government agencies each summer through the program. The event raised more than $35,000 for the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund to benefit the Summer Jobs Program.

The BBF’s popular Casino Night had a new twist this year—100 percent of the proceeds supported the BBA Summer Jobs Program. As you may remember, the BBF funds paid internships for Boston high school students in nonprofit and government agencies each summer through the program. The event raised more than $35,000 for the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund to benefit the Summer Jobs Program.

http://www.bostonbar.org/in-the-community/public-service/housing-court-lawyer-for-the-day-program

The BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program celebrated its 15th year anniversary of providing legal assistance to pro se landlords and tenants at the Boston Housing Court. Since the program began, over 12,000 volunteers have helped more than 15,000 landlords and tenants navigate complicated legal issues.

In April, Boston commemorated the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The following month, the BBA honored the volunteers who stepped up to offer pro bono legal assistance to over 80 small businesses and individuals affected by the bombings at the Law Day Dinner through the BBA’s Marathon Assistance Project.

In April, Boston commemorated the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The following month, the BBA honored the volunteers who stepped up to offer pro bono legal assistance to over 80 small businesses and individuals affected by the bombings at the Law Day Dinner through the BBA’s Marathon Assistance Project.

The BBA’s Law Day in the Schools Program took off this year. Ninety-four attorneys taught over 1,300 Boston public school students from kindergarten through seniors in high school about voting rights.

The BBA’s Law Day in the Schools Program took off this year. Ninety-four attorneys taught over 1,300 Boston public school students from kindergarten through seniors in high school about voting rights.

In addition to honoring the volunteers for the Marathon Assistance Project, the BBA honored the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) at the Law Day Dinner. The BBA and PIC have partnered for the past 21 years to place more than 700 Boston public high school students in paid legal internships each summer.

In addition to honoring the volunteers for the Marathon Assistance Project, the BBA honored the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) at the Law Day Dinner. The BBA and PIC have partnered for the past 21 years to place more than 700 Boston public high school students in paid legal internships each summer through the BBA Summer Jobs Program.

In June, the BBF unveiled its newest fundraising event, called Passports to Pairings, where 100 % of the proceeds supported the BBA Public Service Programs. The event raise nearly $37,000, featured food and beverage pairings, and gave attendees an opportunity learn more about the BBA and BBF’s work in the community.

In June, the BBF unveiled its newest fundraising event, called Passports to Pairings, where 100 % of the proceeds supported the BBA Public Service Programs. The event raise nearly $37,000, featured food and beverage pairings, and gave attendees an opportunity learn more about the BBA and BBF’s work in the community.

The BBA continued to step up its commitment to the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program by placing a record-breaking 64 Boston high school students in paid internships at Boston law firms, legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. The BBF also increased its commitment to the program by funding 14 of these paid positions at non-profit community organizations, government offices and courts.

The BBA continued to step up its commitment to the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program by placing a record-breaking 64 Boston high school students in paid internships at Boston law firms, legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. The BBF also increased its commitment to the program by funding 14 of these paid positions at non-profit community organizations, government offices and courts.

On September 1, 2014, the BBA celebrated the one year anniversary of the Military & Veterans Help Line’s move to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, connecting 161%more servicemembers to legal assistance. Later in the fall, the BBA announced that four firms—Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, Nixon Peabody LLP, Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius, and Nutter McClellen & Fish LLP—had stepped up to offer pro bono assistance to servicemembers who do not qualify for traditional free legal services, but cannot afford the fees of attorneys.

On September 1, 2014, the BBA celebrated the one year anniversary of the Military & Veterans Help Line’s move to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, connecting 161% more servicemembers to legal assistance. Later in the fall, the BBA announced that four firms—Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, Nixon Peabody LLP, Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius, and Nutter McClellen & Fish LLP—had stepped up to offer pro bono assistance to servicemembers who do not qualify for traditional free legal services, but cannot afford the fees of attorneys.

The BBA welcomed Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who discussed her work and commitment to combating military sexual trauma. This program is part of the BBA’s ongoing commitment to addressing the needs of military personnel, veterans, and their family members.

The BBA welcomed Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who discussed her work and commitment to combating military sexual trauma. This program is part of the BBA’s ongoing commitment to addressing the needs of military personnel, veterans, and their family members.

October, proclaimed Pro Bono Month, once again brought a flurry of trainings and events to 16 Beacon. The lineup included the annual Landlord Tenant Law and Practice Training, the CORI Training, the Pro Bono Recruitment Fair, and the Representing Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Introduction for Attorneys Program.

October, proclaimed Pro Bono Month, once again brought a flurry of trainings and events to 16 Beacon. The lineup included the annual Landlord Tenant Law and Practice Training, the CORI Training, the Pro Bono Recruitment Fair, and the Representing Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Introduction for Attorneys Program.

The BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts released its long-awaited report called Investing in Justice, which found that the majority of clients seeking legal assistance are turned away and made the business case for an additional $30 million in civil legal aid funding.

The BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts released its long-awaited report called Investing in Justice, which found that the majority of clients seeking legal assistance are turned away and made the business case for an additional $30 million in civil legal aid funding.

The BBA kicked off the Community Reentry Readiness Program once again this November. The program, which was originally started by PILP 9, aims to reduce the risk of recidivism by sending volunteer attorneys to deliver civil legal education workshops to federal probations in the CARE/RESTART Program on issues that they may face upon reentry.  The pilot program was such a success that the BBA and Federal Court once again teamed up to continue the program.

The BBA kicked off the Community Reentry Readiness Program once again this November. The program, which was originally started by PILP 9, aims to reduce the risk of recidivism by sending volunteer attorneys to deliver civil legal education workshops to federal probations in the CARE/RESTART Program on issues that they may face upon reentry. The pilot program was such a success that the BBA and Federal Court once again teamed up to continue the program.

In November, BBA President Julia Huston spent the morning shadowing the headmaster of Mary Lyon Pilot High School in Brighton through BPE’s Principal for a Day Program. As a former teacher in special education, Julia found the program particularly interesting because every single class at the Mary Lyon Pilot High School is fully inclusive, incorporating both general education and students with emotional and behavioral impairments.

In November, BBA President Julia Huston spent the morning shadowing the headmaster of Mary Lyon Pilot High School in Brighton through BPE’s Principal for a Day Program. As a former teacher in special education, Julia found the program particularly interesting because every single class at the Mary Lyon Pilot High School is fully inclusive, incorporating both general education and students with emotional and behavioral impairments.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service participated in a number of community events this year, including the Massachusetts Conference for Women which drew a crowd of nearly 10,000.  These events help to raise awareness of about the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, which fielded over 7,900 calls last year.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service participated in a number of community events this year, including the Massachusetts Conference for Women which drew a crowd of nearly 10,000. These events help to raise awareness of about the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, which fielded over 7,900 calls last year.

In December, the BBA geared up to kick off an exciting new pilot program in the Land Court with a training on assisting homeowners facing tax foreclosure.  . Now that a number of attorneys are up to speed on the issue, they can volunteer to be on call to assist homeowners at the Land Court’s Thursday Tax Title Sessions and help homeowners hold onto their property.

In December, the BBA geared up to kick off an exciting new pilot program in the Land Court with a training on assisting homeowners facing tax foreclosure. Now that a number of attorneys are up to speed on the issue, they can volunteer to be on call to assist homeowners at the Land Court’s Thursday Tax Title Sessions and help homeowners hold onto their property.

 

Checking in with CLSACC – A BBF Grantee

Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. Photo courtesy of Lisa Marie Oliveira.

Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. Photo courtesy of Lisa Marie Oliveira.

Each year the Boston Bar Foundation grants funding to a number of legal service organizations that provide access to justice for those in our community who need it most. With the Adams Benefit fast approaching, Beyond the Billable decided to check in with one of the grantees, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). It turns out that one of their attorneys has recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. We reached out to Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, to hear more about one of her recent cases. Here’s what she had to say:

What types of cases have you been working on at the Artesia Detention Center?
The Artesia Detention Center is a family detention center. The detainees who are being held there are all mothers with their children.  The women are primarily from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. All of the women I spoke to were fleeing from violence. They were primarily fleeing intimate partner violence, gang violence, and in many cases – both. I successfully represented a mother and her 17 year old and 6 month old daughters who were fleeing from severe domestic violence in their political asylum case.  They had an individual merits hearing, which is their trial, before a federal immigration judge.

How did you first get involved with these types of cases?
I am a political asylum lawyer at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). I am also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  AILA put out a call to its members to request that lawyers go to Artesia on an emergency basis to help the women and children in Artesia. AILA also offered scholarships to encourage lawyers to go. As a legal services attorney, I was awarded one of the scholarships

The Artesia family detention center is in a remote desert town in New Mexico hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Detainees are not permitted to leave, so in effect they were being prevented from obtaining legal counsel. In order for the women to obtain lawyers, lawyers have to go to them. All of the immigration proceedings are held in the detention facility remotely by video teleconferencing before judges from the Executive Office of Immigration Review in Arlington Virginia (this has since been changed to Denver).  Before the lawyers started arriving, the women and children were going through immigration proceedings at the Artesia facility without the benefit of legal counsel and many were being deported. Now that they have lawyers that equation has shifted and many are being released either on bond, parole, or with legal immigration status.

Please share a story from your time at the Artesia immigration detention center.
When I arrived in Artesia on Monday September first, one of the cases that I was handed was the case of a woman and her two children who had fled severe domestic violence at the hands of her spouse whose Individual Merits Hearing in their asylum case was going to be held in one week on September 8th.   This is the hearing before a federal immigration judge on the merits of her political asylum claim where it is decided whether she has a well-founded fear of persecution on a protected ground and can remain legally in the United States as a refugee.  If she was not successful in her claim, she and her children would be ordered removed (deported) from the United States. It was a week away from her hearing and she did not have an attorney to represent her. I met the client (with my colleague from CLSACC paralegal/BIA Accredited representative Karen Bobadilla) the next day and we realized the case submissions had to be put together in two days in order to arrive in Arlington Virginia by the Friday deadline and the client had to be prepared to testify by the following Monday. To put it in context, outside the facility, political asylum cases before an immigration judge can take months or even years to prepare.  The isolation of the facility, the forced isolation of the women and children, and the expedited process meant that I could not obtain evidence that is standard in political asylum cases such as evaluations by a doctor and a mental health professional or any affidavits from people who witnessed the abuse. After a 4 hour video hearing in the facility the case was continued because the judge wanted to hear from an expert. We came back to Boston and secured the expert on Domestic Violence in Honduras and two weeks later Ms. Bobadilla and I flew down to Arlington Virginia to finish the case. The expert testified for almost two hours and then after closing arguments the judge granted the case.

If you want to hear more about this case, click here or here.