Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian Refugees
Together with our community partners, the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Practice held several Haitian TPS Application Assistance events to provide services to those Haitians affected by the January 21, 2010 earthquake. The purpose was to help Haitian refugees register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will enable them to stay in this country without fear of deportation, and to work here legally. Volunteers assisted applicants in completing their TPS forms, translating/interpreting for event participants, and providing additional services necessary to properly complete the TPS application.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
In response to the federal government’s announcement that it will provide Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) to qualified young people, The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit has taken the lead in the outreach effort to provide “DREAMERS” with application assistance. Law firm volunteers, community partners and law students all have contributed to the Society’s initiative to provide advice and assistance to these young immigrants. Probono.net has lent its technical expertise to the effort by hosting the Society’s DACA Webinar, which has been viewed by more than 540 potential volunteers.
Hurricane Disaster Relief
As the legal profession's First Responder and largest disaster relief provider, The Legal Aid Society continues to help thousands of needy New Yorkers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Legal Aid staff members continue to provide the comprehensive disaster relief legal assistance at shelters for homeless and displaced New Yorkers, at the disaster centers, at community-based organizations, and through the Society's Mobile Justice Unit. "It was a desperate situation before the storm and it has become exponentially worse as the result of the storm," Steven Banks , Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, told the media. He added that "[t]here are other natural disasters that are examples of what is going to happen as we go forward. What was found after [Hurricane] Katrina is that there is an increased amount of immediate needs and [then] also an increased amount of longer-term needs-an increased amount of family law because of the increased tension on family life, for instance . . . [an increased need for assistance] with retraining services to help people get back into the job market and, of course, increased needs in terms of housing." The Society serves more than 100,000 adults and children with civil legal problems each year.
Access To Benefits/Hurricane Disaster Relief Hotline – Volunteers can help staff The Legal Aid Society’s hotline for victims of Hurricane Sandy secure disaster relief assistance and families and individuals obtain subsistence government benefits such as unemployment insurance, public health insurance (including Medicaid), public assistance, and food stamps.
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)
On November 28, 2012, the New York City Human Resources Administration ("HRA") was approved to operate and administer the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) program, the emergency food stamp program for eligible individuals residing in 12 designated zip codes affected by Hurricane Sandy. HRA, which required applications to be filed in person between December 12 and December 18, designated only one location – in Fort Greene, Brooklyn - at which applications could be accepted for the seven day period. A second Staten Island site accepted applications only part time for four days. The Brooklyn location presented transportation access obstacles for Far Rockaway residents and the City's plan failed to make reasonable accommodations to specifically address the needs of individuals with disabilities.
With only two days notice, law firm volunteers made more than 2,000 calls over a 24 hour period to inform the Society’s clients that they needed to immediately file for D-SNAP before the City ended the application period. The Legal Aid Society also challenged the legality of the limited access to apply for these benefits with a pro bono partner.