Posts Tagged: Immigration

The Role of the Executive Branch in Setting Immigration Policy

Last month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Stephen Roth of Project Citizenship, concluding the month-long examination of immigration policies today. Stephen has extensive experience representing detained and non-detained immigrants undergoing removal proceedings and in family-based petitions in both New England and greater New York City.  Project Citizenship* is a nonprofit agency that seeks to increase the naturalization rate in Massachusetts and beyond through free workshops and legal counseling.

Stephen offered a first-hand look at how immigration policy has changed from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. Specifically, under a regulation rarely invoked in the past, the U.S. Attorney General has the singular authority to refer immigration cases to himself and to then re-adjudicate them autonomously.

Upon becoming Attorney General, Jeff Sessions self-referred several cases involving previously settled law, Stephen explained. The most notorious of his decisions was Matter of A-B-, in which Sessions overturned Board of Immigration Appeals precedent, finding that “being a victim of private criminal activity” did not constitute a cognizable “particular social group” for purposes of asylum, though domestic-violence-based claims had been recognized as grounds for asylum for decades.

Stephen encouraged the PILP class to volunteer with Project Citizenship and other nonprofit organizations providing free or low-cost legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees.  Stephen further encouraged everyone to participate in notice-and-comment procedures on proposed changes to federal regulations governing asylum and other immigration procedures.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Genevieve Aguilar (Choate).

*Project Citizenship is a 2018 Boston Bar Foundation Grant Recipient.

PILP Learns About Employment-Based Immigration Policy and Recent Legislative Reform

In October, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from George Lester, Partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewry, LLP.  George has 25 years of experience practicing in the field of U.S. immigration and nationality law, and he advises diverse U.S. and multinational companies seeking to hire foreign professionals, scientists, business persons, and artists and represents them in all procedures to obtain temporary or permanent immigration status before relevant U.S. government agencies.

With immigration playing a major role in the 2016 presidential campaign and 2018 mid-term elections, changes to U.S. immigration law and policy impact not only refugee admissions and humanitarian issues, but have significant business consequences as well.  George focused his remarks on how the federal government’s changing immigration priorities have had immediate effects on corporations dependent on high-skilled immigrant labor.

George discussed various legislative proposals to overhaul the current immigration system, their projected efficacy in addressing the current system’s shortcomings, as well as obstacles to their implementation. George also examined executive actions and reform initiatives that the Trump administration has taken or is expected to take, which do not require action from Congress.

The PILP class welcomed the opportunity to learn about an often overlooked piece of the immigration system and the impacts of recent policy changes on businesses in the U.S. George encouraged lawyers to submit public comments to proposed regulation changes which, he said, would likely have an overall detrimental effect on the U.S. economy.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Genevieve Aguilar (Choate).

Attorneys Learn to Lead Know Your Rights Presentations to Immigrant Communities

On September 27th, the BBA hosted a second training for attorneys and law students to learn how to present to immigrant communities about their rights. Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project’s Anita Sharma (Executive Director) and Courtney Snegroff (Community Engagement Manager) led the training, which provided an overview of the immigration executive orders from the past year, information on resources available to assist immigrants, and an update on DACA. PAIR first started holding Know Your Rights trainings around the community after the 2016 election. Since then, they have coordinated over 400 presentations and they continue to train lawyers to carry out these efforts. Thirty attorneys attended the training at the BBA and are now equipped to sign-up for a presentation through PAIR.

If you are an attorney or law student and would like access to a video recording of the training and to be connected with PAIR for this volunteer opportunity, please email Cassandra Shavney at

Anita Sharma and Courtney Snegroff (PAIR Project) train attorneys to lead Know Your Rights presentations.

Volunteer for Citizenship Day 2017

Citizenship Day in Boston is the largest citizenship workshop in New England. This year, Project Citizenship*, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, Goodwin Procter, and Eastern Bank are hosting the 4th annual event.

Since 2014, over 600 people have applied for citizenship on Citizenship Day in Boston. Project Citizenship expects to serve over 350 this year!

Citizenship Day in Boston provides free legal services to hundreds of immigrants but they are in need of volunteers for the event. Citizenship Day 2017 will take place on Saturday, September 23rd at the Reggie Lewis Center (1350 Tremont St. Roxbury, MA 02120). Volunteers will assist with a variety of tasks including assisting applicants with completing the 20-page application. Attendance is mandatory at one of Project Citizenship’s training sessions if you want to assist with completing the forms, even if you have volunteered at the event in the past.

To volunteer for the event and select which training you would like to attend, please fill out this form.

If you have any questions regarding the event, don’t hesitate to reach out to Project Citizenship at or by phone at 617-694-5949.

*Project Citizenship is a 2017 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Pro Bono Preparation for Boston’s Citizenship Day


On Monday, September 12th, the BBA hosted its first pro bono training of the 2016-2017 program year. The training, run by Veronica Serrato of Project Citizenship and Joy DePina from the City of Boston, was designed to help prepare volunteer law students and attorneys for Citizenship Day in Boston, which will take place on Saturday, September 17th at the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury.

Joy DePina began by expressing the commitment the City of Boston has to assisting the nearly 48,000 permanent legal residents currently living in the city. She also spoke about Mayor Marty Walsh’s own history regarding the naturalization of his parents, as well as the obligation he personally feels in assisting all immigrant residents in Boston.

Veronica Serrato then provided an extensive overview of the US naturalization process, from the general requirements which must be met by applicants, to the intricacies of the 20 page application itself. She also explained what the Department of Homeland Security looks for in these applications, and how to make sure they are being properly filed. The applications will be filled out with the assistance of a volunteer attorney and checked for quality to ensure applicants are not turned away due to errors that commonly occur when filing without legal assistance.
The BBA would like to thank all of those who attended the training, the speakers, and the many volunteers who will be assisting applicants during Citizenship Day.

If you would like to volunteer for Citizenship Day, please click here to sign-up.

“Citizenship Day in Boston” is an event where legal permanent residents across the state are able to receive free legal assistance and guidance in filling out the N-400 citizenship application. Project Citizenship, in unison with The Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Goodwin Procter, is expecting to assist over 300 people apply for citizenship at this year’s event. Project Citizenship has been working year round since 2011 to provide assistance to those wishing to become citizens of the United States, and has so far assisted 8,100 applicants, with 3,194 last year alone. This year’s event will be the third yearly Citizenship Day so far, hopefully with many more to come.

Experts Break Down the United States Refugee Admissions Program

Marjean Perhot (Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Boston), Lisa Brennan (Ascentria Health Care Alliance), and Vivie Hengst (State Office of Refugees and Immigrants) spoke about the Syrian Refugee Crisis at Tuesday's brown bag program.

Marjean Perhot (Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Boston), Lisa Brennan (Ascentria Health Care Alliance), and Vivie Hengst (State Office of Refugees and Immigrants) gave a practical overview of the laws and processes for Syrian refugees. 

The issue of admitting refugees into the United States has been publicly discussed with increasing frequency as tensions in Syria have escalated and life there has become more dangerous. This week at the BBA, Immigration Section Co-Chair Iris Gomez and Asylum Committee Co-Chair Ani Ajemian sought to shed some light on the long, complicated process of entering the United States as a refugee, and the role that state governments play in that process.

They hosted three speakers who were able to bring diverse perspectives to a brown bag program. Marjean Perhot, Director of Refugee and Immigration Services for the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Boston, spoke about the many hurdles a person must clear in order to be granted admission to the country as a refugee.

Lisa Brennan, Program Manager at Ascentria Health Care Alliance, spoke about the steps her staff members take to help refugees adjust to life in America once they’re here, such as offering employment assistance and help applying for necessary documents.

Vivie Hengst, General Counsel for the State Office of Refugees and Immigrants, spoke about the process by which the federal government assigns a location to a refugee for resettlement.

In a PowerPoint presentation, the trio explained that refugees are just a “drop in the bucket” compared to the total number of immigrants in the United States. Marjean explained that only about one percent of the applicants make it through the federal government’s rigorous screening procedures, which begin long before a potential refugee leaves his or her home country.

Relocating refugees to another country is actually the least preferred option for both individual refugees and the agencies who help them, Marjean said. But sometimes there is no other option.

“Wouldn’t we love everybody to go back to their homes, to their familiar places? But that just is not the case for so many people,” Marjean said.

Vivie said about 10,000 refugees are expected to enter the country from Syria this year, and it is the federal government’s job to decide where they go. They are assigned a location based on a variety of factors, including the existing population of refugees in a given area, the cost of housing, and more.

The program offered those unfamiliar with the refugee immigration process a step-by-step overview. Participants were interested in learning more from the panelists after the program’s conclusion.

Attorneys Pick Up Tips on How to Tackle Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases

Panelist share useful tips with attorneys who may support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.

Panelist shared useful tips to help attorneys support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.


Panelist Laurie Carafone (Kids in Need of Defense), Elizabeth Badger (Kids in Need of Defense), Jay McManus (Childrens Law Center of Massachusetts), and Jennifer Klein (Committee for Public Service Counsel –Somerville) gathered at the BBA last Monday to discuss special immigrant juvenile cases. The panelists shared their personal experiences and gave the attendees some advice on how they can approach similar proceedings to gain the best outcome for children involved.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Elizabeth Badger for more information. Here’s what she had to say about why she believes it’s important for attorneys and judges to educate themselves about special proceedings in immigrant juvenile cases:

“Noncitizen children appearing before the juvenile courts are often the children most in need of stability, which SIJ can provide them.  That same court proceeding to address those needs is able to provide them with the orders needed to petition for SIJ status.  However, very few families and attorneys are aware of the court’s ability to provide this relief and pathway to stabilize the children’s lives.”

Pro Bono Training Preps Attorneys to Assist Victims of Workplace Crimes, Human Trafficking, and Fraud in Labor Contracting

The panelists at Tuesday's pro bono training walked attendees through U and T nonimmigrant status, and how to identify workplace crimes.

The panelists at Tuesday’s pro bono training walked attendees through U and T nonimmigrant status and how to identify workplace crimes.

Attorneys gathered at 16 Beacon to learn about options for immigration relief for workplace and trafficking victims during Tuesday night’s pro bono training. The panelists, including Lyida Edwards (Greater Boston Legal Services), Julie Dahlstrom (Ascentria Care Alliance), Declan Croucher (Verité), and Carla Moniz (Greater Boston Legal Services), walked attendees through U and T nonimmigrant status, and how to identify workplace crimes.

Beyond the Billable caught up with Julie after the training to hear more. Take a look at what she had to say about the training:

“The training was an excellent opportunity for attorneys to learn how to advocate for low-income workers who are vulnerable to abuse in the workplace. Too often, workers are afraid to move forward and speak openly about the exploitation that they suffer. We hope that the training provides attorneys with the tools to advocate for immigration status on behalf of these workers. Immigration status is one of the most important steps to combat future labor exploitation and ensure that workers can come out of the shadows.”

Panel Presents on Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied Minors

Last Monday, an all-star panel of attorneys presented at the Delivery of Legal Service Section’s brown bag on unaccompanied minors. The panelists, including Shannon Erwin (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition), Elena Noureddin (Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project), and Gaye Özpinar (Law Office of Gay Özpinar), walked the audience through the conditions and situations that many are facing in holding facilities located in southern United States communities.

If you’re not familiar with the recent increase in unaccompanied minors traveling to the United States, here’s the deal: this past summer, the U.S experienced a considerable influx of unaccompanied children emigrating from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala due to the surge in violence in their home countries. Because these families and children are classified as illegal immigrants, they are not afforded the right to counsel.  Individuals who have representation have a 50 percent chance of obtaining asylum versus only a 10 percent chance for those who are unrepresented. As a result, many unaccompanied children are being sent back to the dangerous environment from which they are seeking asylum.

Are you interested in helping?  Click here to learn how you can volunteer with the PAIR Project. Spanish speaking attorneys are encouraged to get involved.

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Family Law and Immigration Sections Partner to Help Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

Greater Boston Legal Services Attorneys Nancy Kelly, Anne Mackin, and Patricia Ann Tellis-Warren walked family law attorneys through steps they can take to assist unaccompanied minors.

Greater Boston Legal Services Attorneys Nancy Kelly, Anne Mackin, and Patricia Ann Tellis-Warren walked family law attorneys through steps they can take to assist unaccompanied minors.

The influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America made headlines earlier this year. In an effort to offer assistance to these children, the BBA’s Immigration and Family Law Sections teamed up for a training on expediting the immigration process.

Experienced family law practitioners gathered at the BBA last Wednesday for an overview of the steps needed to obtain a predicate order from the Probate and Family Court, thus allowing an immigration attorney to later apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) for the immigrant youth. An expert panel made up of attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services, including Nancy Kelly, Anne Mackin, and Patricia Ann Tellis-Warren, outlined common issues and challenges and discussed sample pleadings with the audience.

We checked in Julie Dahlstrom (Ascentria Care Alliance, formally Lutheran Social Services), one of the co-chairs of the Immigration Public Service Committee who organized the training, to learn more. Here’s what she had to say about the training.

What do you hope attendees learned at the training?

“We hope that attendees learned basic information about the avenues for immigration relief for unaccompanied children and various ways in which family law practitioners can provide pro bono services to immigrant children.”

Why should attorneys assist with these types of cases?

“Working with unaccompanied children is incredibly rewarding. Often, these children are fleeing violence, abuse and neglect in their countries. Having a lawyer can mean the difference between life and death.”

Now that the attorneys have learned the basic, they can take pro bono cases through Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Ascentria Care Alliance, and Greater Boston Legal Services.