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A Day In The Life

Standing Up for Vulnerable Communities in the Immigration Law Unit

For over a century, The Legal Aid Society has been standing up for the rights of New York City’s immigrants. But, four years ago, our Immigration Law Unit started facing a slew of new challenges: family separation, unconstitutional travel bans and detentions, and increased enforcement by ICE agents at courthouses. Hasan Shafiqullah, Attorney-in-Charge of ILU, has helped guide our work through these new issues.

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation even worse for the immigrant New Yorkers we serve. Take those currently in ICE detention centers. Unsafe and unsanitary conditions in these centers have made them hotbeds for infection. For those with compromised immune systems, their detention may very well be a death sentence. The pandemic has also made it harder for our staff to speak to our clients, throwing another obstacle in the way of keeping these New Yorkers safe.

Our team has risen to the challenges of COVID-19.

Even in the face of all of these challenges, Hasan knows that “our team has risen to the occasion.” Since March 16, we have won the release of over 50 clients from ICE incarceration. As courts kept submission deadlines in place – even though hearings were canceled and courtrooms were closed – our staff rushed to meet those deadlines, even at the height of the pandemic to ensure the release of clients.

Because they may face a variety of issues, the ongoing battle on behalf of immigrant New Yorkers is not only fought by Hasan and his team, but alongside colleagues throughout our organization. Hasan himself notes that he first became interested in immigration law after helping a domestic abuse survivor secure her green card. “Being an immigrant myself, transitioning to immigration work full-time just felt right.” Our Immigration Law Unit works hand in hand with staff across the city, helping clients address not only their immigration status, but also their housing, employment, and educational needs. Working at the intersection of the challenges our clients face, we help build a better city for all New Yorkers.

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