Press Releases

NYS Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of New York Launch Statewide Pro Bono Project

February 1, 2019

For Immediate Release

CCCS: Sandy Strk

LDP: Lee Park

NYS LIBERTY DEFENSE PROJECT & CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF NEW YORK LAUNCH STATEWIDE PRO BONO PROJECT TO EXPAND LEGAL SERVICES FOR IMMIGRANTS allows volunteer attorneys to easily take on immigration cases for low-income and vulnerable immigrants, expanding help to more New Yorkers

New York State’s Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York today announced the formal launch, a new platform to support Catholic Charities’and the Liberty Defense Project’s Pro Bono program. This first-of-its-kind statewide project in New York identifies immigration cases through community legal clinics and refers them to volunteer legal representatives, increasing statewide access to free legal services for low-income and vulnerable immigrants. 

The new online platform, funded by the Liberty Defense Project, gives volunteers the tools to competently and effectively assist the most vulnerable immigrants. The all-inclusive site provides volunteers with the ability to review available cases, sign up for short-term and case placement volunteer opportunities, learn more about the work of the Pro Bono Project and access a wealth of training materials and practice templates. The online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based trainings, with new materials added as needed.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “The immigration issue is complex and becoming increasingly tinged with uncertainties for families trying to navigate the process. People need help and they need it now. 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. The Pro Bono Project is a smart, efficient program to get more legal aid in the pipeline to help those in dire need of assistance.”

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, said, “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. Our new Pro Bono Project mitigates the gap in immigrant representation throughout New York State by creating capacity through pro bono mentorship. Volunteers will be the helping hand that creates hope and guides them toward greater safety and security, to live their lives with a stronger, more stable foundation.”

Patricia Gunning, Catholic Charities Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate, said, “I decided to volunteer with the Catholic Charities at a difficult time in my life. I had lost my job and was at a crossroad, trying to figure out next steps and feeling really down. I knew that I needed to step outside my comfort zone in order to grow and move toward the next step in my career. I went to one of the Community Legal Clinics and ended up taking my first case with the Pro Bono Project shortly after - helping a young girl who had been the victim of sexual abuse in the United States. 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. The experience helped me regain my footing, and at the same time helped them potentially gain a path to citizenship. I am learning a new area of the law and find it both personally and professionally rewarding.” 

Every Pro Bono Project volunteer advocate will receive expert legal training and mentorship in each stage of a case and at each service event in which they choose to participate, so that each client will receive the highest quality assistance, in furtherance of Catholic Charities’ mission to recognize the dignity of each person and strive 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 simply choose to express their interest as well as search and review available cases that need legal representation. 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. Private bar pro bono volunteer advocates’ (PBVAs) caseload will be approximately one to two cases per volunteer attorney, where firms will see more of a variance, on average, two to ten per firm. 

To date, Catholic Charities has placed 105 pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys throughout New York State. Their Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate network has grown to more than 230 dedicated volunteer attorneys, and more than 600 New Yorkers reached out to Catholic Charities following the family separation crisis last summer to learn about how they could support efforts, including more than 265 attorneys expressing interest in joining the Pro Bono Project.

About Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York

Catholic Charities is a federation of approximately 90 agencies and programs located throughout the 10 counties of the Archdiocese of New York, helping to solve the problems of New Yorkers in need – non-Catholics and Catholics alike – with services that protect and nurture children, strengthen families and resolve crises, assist the hungry and homeless, support the physically and emotionally challenged, and integrate immigrants and refugees.

In 2017, Catholic Charities marked a 100-year legacy of service and launched the next century of providing help and creating hope for New Yorkers in need. Catholic Charities has recommitted to providing basic human services that are efficient, effective, accountable and caring – and to being a valued partner in building the fabric of a caring New York.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, please visit our website at

About the New York State Liberty Defense Project

In 2017, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project – the first-in-the-nation, state-led public-private project to assist immigrants – regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The project is administered by the Governor’s Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, major colleges and universities and bar associations. The Liberty Defense Project provides:

  • Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York State.
  • Direct representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as other cases.
  • Help with filing immigration applications for naturalization, employment authorization, permanent residency, etc.
  • Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants and community at large.

Since its inception in 2017, the Liberty Defense Project has been a front line of defense against federal policies targeting immigrants, as well as the rise of arbitrary arrests and detention by ICE. It has provided more than 25,000 services to immigrants across New York State.

One quarter of the immigrants in New York-based detention provided with deportation defense representation under the LDP 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.

Any immigrant that needs free legal assistance is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. All call information is confidential. Assistance is available in 200+ languages.



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