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Groundbreaking “Pro Bono Project” Increases Legal Services for Immigrants

Posted on February 5, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

How This New Site & Our Volunteers Can Make a Difference

Free legal services for low-income, vulnerable immigrants multiplied dramatically thanks to a groundbreaking initiative, CatholicCharitiesNYProBono.org.

This cutting-edge statewide program launched by Catholic Charities NY and the Liberty Defense Project pairs volunteers with technology, expanding help to more New Yorkers.

Already the Liberty Defense Project along with Catholic Charities have served as a front line of defense against federal policies targeting immigrants as well as the rise of arbitrary arrests and detention by ICE. One quarter of the immigrants in New York-based detention provided with deportation defense representation have been released and reunited with their families in their communities, where they are better positioned to receive continued legal assistance to prepare their cases in the hopes of finding long-term relief.

“The immigration issue is complex and becoming increasingly tinged with uncertainties for families trying to navigate the process,” says New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “This new tool will help countless immigrant families across New York State and we are honored to partner with Catholic Charities to support this important resource. People need help and they need it now.”

Catholic Charities NY already placed 105 pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys throughout New York State through a volunteer advocate network that has grown to more than 230 dedicated volunteer attorneys. 

The Pro Bono Project provides a new online platform that gives these volunteers all the tools they need to competently and effectively assist immigrants seeking asylum and legal status including:

  • Identifying immigration cases through community legal clinics
  • Referring them to volunteer legal representatives
  • Increasing statewide access to free legal services

“I went to one of the Community Legal Clinics and ended up taking my first case with the Pro Bono Project … helping a young girl who had been the victim of sexual abuse in the United States,” says Catholic Charities Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate Patricia Gunning.  “Over time, I got to know her and her family and began to understand the breadth of issues facing undocumented individuals in a way that went way beyond the headlines.”

Interested in volunteering with the Pro Bono Project?  Check out these key details:

  • Every Pro Bono Project volunteer advocate receives expert legal training and mentorship in each stage of a case and at each service event in which they choose to participate. 
  • The project’s online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based trainings with new materials added as needed.
  • This ensures that each client receives the highest quality assistance, furthering Catholic Charities’ mission to recognize the dignity of each person while striving for a just and compassionate society. 

Through the Pro Bono Project, Catholic Charities teaches volunteer advocates to:

  • Prepare affirmative asylum applications for individuals afraid to return to their homes;
  • Litigate asylum cases for mothers and children fleeing gang violence in Central America;
  • Help unaccompanied immigrant children obtain special humanitarian protection due to abuse, neglect or abandonment;
  • Empower survivors of violence to find safety, stability, and status through US immigration laws designed to protect victims of crime, trafficking, and familial abuse;
  • Assist immigrants to reunify with family members, both here and through overseas processing.

On the website, volunteers can express their interest as well as search and review available cases that need legal representation.

  • Private bar pro bono volunteer advocates’ caseload includes one to two cases per volunteer attorney;
  • firms average two to ten pro bono cases.

The Pro Bono Project recruits and engages volunteer attorneys in numerous ways including:

  • bi-monthly newsletters,
  • building on existing law firm relationships as well as
  • creating new partnerships with firms through outreach, engagement with local bar associations throughout New York State, and
  • individual connectivity with private bar attorneys who express interest through a variety of channels, agency-wide.

“Catholic Charities is working to ensure that immigrants across New York have access to legal counsel and assistance to navigate a complex and often frustrating system,” says Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. “Our new Pro Bono Project mitigates the gap in immigrant representation. Volunteers will be the helping hand that guides them toward greater safety and security to live their lives with a stronger, more stable foundation.”

Are you or someone you know an immigrant who needs free legal assistance?

  • Call the Catholic Charities operated New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.
  • All information is confidential.
  • Assistance is available in 200+ languages.