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Our Impact

Defending Immigrants Across Our City

Defending Asylum-Seekers

On May 23, Xiu Qing You was detained by ICE at a mandatory interview for a green card. Mr. You has lived in Flushing, Queens since coming to the United States in 2000 to escape religious persecution in China. He has no criminal record, but his application for asylum was denied and a final order of deportation was issued by the government. Mr. You runs a nail salon in Connecticut with his wife and is a father to two young children.

The Legal Aid Society joined Yee Ling Poon, Esq. as co-counsel to represent Mr. You, and initiated the request for a stay of removal and his immediate release. On June 20, The Legal Aid Society won an emergency stay motion that temporarily prevented his deportation, pending resolution of his petition for habeas corpus. The Court also ordered Mr. You’s immediate release from ICE detention. United States District Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York heard the arguments and granted the stay.

I left Honduras because it was dangerous there. I was scared. Now, I’m in high school about to graduate next year. I want to go to college and study.

Wilmer Hernandez Lino Former Immigration Law Unit Client

Protecting a Path to Citizenship for Abandoned, Neglected, or Abused Immigrant Youth

LAS is currently working closely with pro bono co-counsel Latham & Watkins LLP to help protect a path to citizenship for vulnerable young New Yorkers aged between 18-21 years who have been abandoned, neglected, or abused. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a vital form of immigration relief for undocumented youth, and offers one of the first steps on a path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship. New Yorkers eligible for SIJS are among the most vulnerable members of an already-marginalized population and have often experienced extreme trauma, which is exacerbated by the stress of interacting with an opaque and complex legal process. Under federal law, SIJS can be granted only to immigrant youth who have been declared dependent on a juvenile court and whom the state court have determined are neglected, abandoned, or abused by their parents.

Under a new policy, USCIS had recently decided that New York State Family Courts were not juvenile courts for the purpose of granting the required predicate orders for SIJS eligibility for young people between the ages of 18-21. This new policy, in direct conflict with New York and federal law, blocked an estimated 6,600 New York resident youths from the opportunity to regularize their status and arbitrarily denied them the fresh start they deserved. In June 2018, LAS together with our pro bono partners filed R.F.M v. Nielsen,  a federal class action lawsuit that sought a declaratory judgment that the new USCIS policy is arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.  On March 15, 2019, the federal court issued an Opinion & Order finding entirely in favor of the plaintiffs (LAS and Latham & Watkins LLP), granting class certification, the ability to proceed anonymously and summary judgement, having found USCIS’s Over-18 Denial Policy unlawful. See R.F.M. v. Nielsen, 365 F. Supp. 3d 350 (S.D.N.Y. 2019). Specifically, the Court found that USCIS acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it implemented its Over-18 Denial Policy because the policy went beyond the scope of the federal SIJS statute and lacked a reasoned explanation. Instead, the Court opined that such policy change must come from Congress, not immigration authorities. The Court also ruled that USCIS’ policy was arbitrary and capricious because it exceeded the scope of its consent function and did not provide adequate notice of the policy change as required under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).

On May 31, 2019, the Court entered an Amended Judgement, which granted final declaratory and injunctive relief to RFM Class Members. Pursuant to the Amended Judgement, USCIS must mail the court-ordered Notice to the Class, in both English and Spanish, to Class Members by July 31, 2019. Counsel of record for the class member’s I-360 SIJS petition will also receive a Notice via mail by that date. The Notice was also published on the USCIS webpage. The Government recently submitted its first Compliance Report to the Court stating that Class Notices were mailed to 8,000 putative class members. The Notice sets forth what Class Members must do to benefit from the Amended Judgement. Specifically, for R.F.M. Class Members with a pending petition before USCIS, no further action is needed and USCIS will adjudicate the applications in accordance with the Opinion & Order. For those R.F.M. Class Members whose applications received a final denial or revocation, an I-290B must be filed in order for their applications to be readjudicated in accordance with the Opinion & Order. A more detailed R.F.M. practice advisory created by The Legal Aid Society can be found here.

By the Numbers

Our work reunifies families and assists low-income immigrants in obtaining lawful status, applying for citizenship, and defending against deportation so everyone has an equal chance to thrive in New York City.

40%

New York City has 3.3 million foreign-born immigrants, from more than 150 countries, who comprise nearly 40% of the City population.

6,000

We handle more than 6,000 immigration cases every year.

5x

Represented immigrants who were never detained were nearly 5x more likely than unrepresented counterparts to obtain relief.

Fighting the Federal Government's "Zero Tolerance" Policy

We worked with Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP to launch NTC et al v. Sessions in response to the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services “zero tolerance” policy, in which minor children were deliberately and forcibly separated from their parents at the hands of the United States government.

Upon being ordered to reunite the families, the government coercively conditioned that reunification on parents, waiving their children’s rights. These children were effectively denied the right to be free from indefinite and coercive detention, the right to apply for asylum and other forms of immigration relief, and the right to receive a fair process prior to repatriation. We secured a restraining order in the Southern District of New York, and have continued to represent these children as the matter was joined with ongoing litigation in District Court in California.

A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.

Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.

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