Teach dream

Legal Services

What’s below:

1. Brief Overview of Ways to Get Different Statuses

2. Tips for Referring Young People to Legal Services

3. Legal Services Referrals specific to New York City

4. Community Organizing referrals for those to whom no legal pathway exists

5. Questions to Think About and why this matters

1. Brief Overview of Ways to Get Different Statuses

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/DACA: It is no longer recommended that people apply for DACA (post 11/2016 election).

What does Trump mean for DACA and DAPA?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS): This is the secret of the youth immigration world. It is for young people, under 21 and unmarried, who have been abandoned, abused or neglected by one or both parents. The standard of abuse is low; any young person who is not living with both parents might qualify and should see a lawyer to get advice.  To qualify for SIJS young people also need to be in foster care, have a legal guardian, OR be in the legal custody of one parent. If a young person is not already in one of these situations, they can have someone petition for guardianship or custody of them as part of the SIJS application process. Applying for SIJS is a two part process – the first part is in family court and the second part is with immigration.  Note: It is often hard for abandoned/abused youth to find someone to be their guardian. Becoming a guardian for a SIJS eligible young person can be an easy way way for educators to help undocumented youth.

For more information about SIJS, read this article by Lisa Mendel-Hirsa (published by the Empire Justice Center): http://www.empirejustice.org/issue-areas/immigrant-rights/access-to-status/understanding-special.html?print=t


See also (Green Cards for Youth in Foster Care or Guardianships): http://www.reentry.net/ny/library/attachment.72714

U-visa: a special visa for victims of crime that eventually leads to a green card. To qualify young people (or their parents) have to be the victim of a qualifying crime (basically anything related to domestic violence or a violent crime that caused significant harm) and have helped the police. Young people can also get a u-visa if ACS was involved in their family and they or a non-abusive parent helped ACS with their investigation. You can only get a u-visa if the crime occurred in the U.S. People who qualify for a u-visa can include their parents, children and spouse on the application.

T-visa: a special visa for victims of trafficking (sex or labor) who have helped the police prosecute their traffickers. Signs of trafficking include: having worked somewhere and not been allowed to leave, having worked and not been paid, having had a passport or other documents taken away by an employer, having debt to one’s employer. People who qualify for a t-visa can also include their parents, children and spouse on the application.

Family based immigration: young people can get a green card through close blood relatives who are citizens or permanent residents, specifically a parent, a spouse or sometimes a sibling. It’s easier if the relative is a citizen than if they are a permanent resident. It’s also easier to do if the young person overstayed a visa than if they crossed the border without documentation or government permission. It requires the cooperation of the sponsoring adult (see below for exception related to abuse) and can be expensive.

Violence Against Women Act Self Petition: if a young person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent or spouse who abused them, the young person can sponsor themselves without the abusive person. This is easier to do if the young person has evidence of the abuse, such as a police report, order of protection or a letter from a therapist. It also requires proof of the abusive persons status as a us citizen or permanent resident.

Temporary Protected Status [TPS]: for people from certain countries that have experienced natural disasters. The U.S. government has to have designated the country for tps.  To qualify, someone usually has to have applied by a certain date, came to the U.S. by a certain date, resided in the U.S. for a certain time and be a citizen of the designated country. Most recently, Haiti was designated for tps. To qualify, people had to have come to the U.S. before Jan 12, 2011 (ie within a year of the earthquake). For more information, see this fact sheet from The Legal Aid Soceity:   http://www.legal-aid.org/media/129079/haiti%20tps%20factsheet%20_5_.pdf

DACA: for young people who came to the U.S. before they were 16 years old, were in the U.S. on June 15th 2013, and have been continually residing in the U.S. since since June 15, 2013. To qualify, young people can’t have been convicted of certain crimes. DACA only gets youth  a work permit, it does not lead to citizenship and does not make youth eligible for financial aid. In some states (including New York) young people with DACA can get Medicaid and a State ID. For more information, see this fact sheet from The Legal Aid Society: http://www.legal-aid.org/media/159572/dream_factsheet_en.pdf

For more information on the application process, go to: http://www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals

Document Checklist for DACA from the New York Immigration Coalition: http://www.thenyic.org/sites/default/files/DACA_Doc_Checklist_081412_.pdf

sdt-2012-08-14-income-deportation00-1 copy

Employment Based Immigration: young people can get a visa or green card if an employer sponsors them. This is hard to do though without a college degree or many years of work experience. Also, people can’t get a visa or a green card this way if the have spent time in the U.S. without the permission of immigration (ie overstayed their visa or snuck across the border)

2. Tips for Referring Young People to Lawyers

– know that young people are often scared about seeing a lawyer and about the process of getting status, reassure them

– remind young people about appointments with lawyers (especially the first few) and follow up afterwards to see how they went

– if its ok with the young person, check in with the lawyer after the young person meets with them for the first time to confirm that they will represent the young person.

– sometimes young people miss appointments, this is ok

– try to establish relationships with lawyers

– encourage young people to talk to the lawyer about all the difficult things that have happened in their lives. It is often the most difficult things in people’s pasts that allow them to qualify for status

– encourage young people to ask the lawyer any questions they have about what the lawyer tells them

– if it is ok with the young person, give the lawyer your contact information as an alternate way to contact them. Often young people run out of minutes on their phone or loose their number.

– if you can, check in with the young person’s family/guardians first. They may want to accompany them to a lawyers’ office, or have different relevant questions for you before beginning the process.

3. Legal Services Referrals

A (non comprehensive) list of free legal service providers have experience working with youth. All of these organizations also work with people who are being deported.

*Click to enlarge

*Click to enlarge

The Legal Aid Society also has Immigration Clinics. For information on the times/locations go to: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/legal-aid-society-immigration-clinic-outreach-schedule

For those of you working with youth who are potentially eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Make the Road NY provides legal services in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Jackson Heights, Queens and Port Richmond, Staten Island.

For teachers supporting potentially DACA eligible youth, they can tell them to come to one of our DACA workshops + screenings that take place on a weekly basis, at:

Make the Road’s Brooklyn office at 301 Grove St in Bushwick
Thursdays at 4pm with Raul Preciado

Make the Road’s Queens office at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave in Jackson Heights
Wednesdays at 4pm with Yenny Quispe

No appointments needed – youth can walk right in!

The workshop is Step 1 in a 3-step process that DACA applicants will go through at Make the Road. Contact Yasmine with any questions:

Yasmine Chahkar Farhang
Youth Immigration Advocate 
Make The Road New York
92-10 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, New York 11372

Office: (718) 565-8500 x 4497

See SIJS referral list above for more.

4. Community Organizing referrals for those to whom no legal pathway exists

Not sure any of the above applies to you or someone you know? Have a criminal conviction or bad interaction with the NYPD? Are you worried about deportation notices?

Families for Freedom

Office: 646-290-8720
Hotline: 646-290-5551

 Questions to Think About:

– What is the current legislative panorama as it pertains to undocumented youth and their families?

– What various legal pathways might be available to undocumented youth and how can allies/educators connect youth to these potential pathways?

– Who is left out of these pathways and how can we continue to support them?

– How do educators who seek to be allies of undocumented youth navigate the advising process, particularly in the realm of legal information?

Why this matters: Here’s a scenario you might experience someday after class.

Liana lingered after class one day a year ago. She had shared her immigration status with that teacher a few months before, after seeing an ‘I am undocumented’ tshirt hanging on the classroom wall. But she never discussed details of her legal or family situation in front of other students. ‘How are you?’  ‘Well, I got a final deportation notice in the mail yesterday. I guess I’m a fugitive in this country.’ ‘What?!’ So began a series of calls and emails to lawyer and organizer friends frantically looking for a way out of what seemed to be an impossible situation. The student and teacher learned more than they ever had about immigration law, and the teacher realized there actually were some options that affect (some of) the most vulnerable; like victims of parental neglect, abuse, and other violent crimes. But she also realized how important it was to be able to refer the student (and future students) to a competent, respectful, and free lawyer…

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