The City Bar launches free legal advice for young migrants in New York

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By Emilie Lever | October 14, 2022, 3:54 p.m. EDT
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The City Bar Justice Center in New York has partnered with Covenant House, a nonprofit housing and homeless youth service organization, to provide pro bono advice on immigration law to young asylum seekers. asylum arriving in the city from the southern US border, the City Bar reported.

Lawyers working with the City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Justice Project will provide legal services to young people living in shelters run by Covenant House, the two organizations announced Thursday. The move responds to a call from the New York City government for civil society to come together to provide shelter, basic necessities and longer-term resources to asylum seekers, thousands of whom have been shipped to New York and other blue states by Republican Florida governors. and Texas in what has been criticized by humanitarian groups as “removal.”

“The City Bar Justice Center is proud to partner with Covenant House and a growing list of generous pro bono partners to help meet the urgent legal needs of young migrants caught in a growing crisis rooted in systemic inequalities,” Kurt M. Denk, the executive director of the City Bar Justice Center, said in a statement. “We look forward to providing these youngest New Yorkers with high-quality legal assistance that can help ease their burden as they face sudden changes in their lives.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency on October 7, noting that more than 17,000 asylum seekers had arrived in the city since the spring, most without housing. The new arrivals included 2,896 families with children, 6,014 single adults and 734 families of all adults, according to the mayor. Many were dropped off by charter buses at the Port Authority bus station in the middle of the night at the request of the states of Texas and Florida, without coordination with New York.

The state of emergency directs city health, emergency management, immigration, technology, homeless services, housing and other agencies to work together to provide a assistance to newcomers. But with the shelter system on track to be responsible for 100,000 people by the end of the year if Southern states continue to send migrants into the city at the same rate, Adams called on the actors private to intervene.

It was not immediately clear how many asylum seekers are among the target population of Covenant House, whose mission is to provide shelter, food, clothing and medical and mental health care to 14 to 20 years who are homeless. At least 5,500 school-age children are among the asylum seekers, according to the town hall. It was not clear whether unaccompanied minors were among them.

The City Bar and Covenant House hosted a virtual immigration law clinic on September 28, which will be followed throughout the year by “know your rights” and other programs. Where possible, City Bar volunteer lawyers will also work to secure permanent status for young people living in Covenant House shelters, according to the announcement.

“We are privileged to welcome and house these traumatized young people who are escaping drug cartels, starvation, danger to their lives because they are LGBTQ+, political persecution and human trafficking. “said Julie Farber, executive director of Covenant House New York, in a statement. “This crisis is pushing all service providers beyond their capacity, and their legal needs far exceed what our small legal department can accommodate. We are extremely grateful to City Bar Justice Center for partnering with us to ensure that all young people we serve have access to the highest quality legal services at this traumatic time in their lives.”

–Edited by Rich Mills.

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