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A Day In The Life

Challenging "Public Charge" in the Civil Practice Law Reform Unit

Maria is changing the legal landscape of New York City. As a Paralegal Case Handler in our Civil Law Reform Unit, Maria is part of a team that protects and expands the civil rights of vulnerable New Yorkers. From immigrant rights, to tenant protections, to access to government benefits, Maria and her colleagues are making a far-reaching and lasting difference.

Our Civil Law Reform Unit works with clients, staff, and partner organizations in every borough to identify and reform systemic issues. Maria, who only started her career at The Legal Aid Society a year and a half ago, has already worked on a variety of impactful cases. Maria’s role is twofold: she directly assists and represents clients in individual cases and supports staff attorneys as they build impact cases to defend or strengthen all of New Yorker’s civil rights. Take, for example, our Law Reform Unit’s recent victory in their legal challenge to “Public Charge.”

I’ve always been passionate about creating justice through the law.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration published a change in the definition of “Public Charge” within immigration law that threatened to overhaul our country’s entire immigration system. The new rule would punish some immigrants for receiving certain government benefits – such as federal Medicaid and housing benefits – and preclude their ability to gain permanent residence in the United States. With millions of immigrants now being wrongfully chilled into choosing between their benefits and future ability to adjust their immigration status, The Legal Aid Society took action. Together with her colleagues, Maria screened and advised clients, helped them access benefits, and worked to build a legal challenge to this rule. In October, a judged granted us a nationwide preliminary injunction, temporarily preserving the benefits of immigrant New Yorkers across the city.

We also take on advocacy with elected officials to push forward reforms.

Maria understands the importance of cases like these: “our clients face and overcome a variety of challenges, but they are especially vulnerable if they are dealing with an immigration issue.” She looks forward to continuing to advocate for vulnerable communities in the coming year, as our Law Reform Unit continues to tackle systemic issues undermining low-income New Yorkers’ access to justice. Maria helps make our city a better place for all New Yorkers.

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