The Board met during September 2014 to discuss grant applications. As a result of that discussion, the Board made the following grants to five worthy organizations.
Click on each Grantee’s name below to read more about their organization and the case for which they received funding.
Established in 1987, the American Immigration Council is a non-profit organization established to increase public understanding of immigration law and policy, advocate for the fair and just administration of our immigration laws, protect the legal rights of noncitizens, and educate the public about the enduring contributions of America’s immigrants. Our legal department works with other immigrants’ rights organizations and immigration attorneys across the United States to promote full access to counsel at all stages of the immigration process, including deportation proceedings. Other priority areas include promoting transparency and accountability in immigration enforcement, preserving immigrants’ access to administrative agencies and federal courts, and promoting systemic reforms to fix long-standing problems with our broken immigration system.
The Council’s recent litigation accomplishments include:
Each year, the government initiates deportation proceedings against thousands of children, but does not guarantee that those children have legal representation. Like adults, children who cannot afford to hire an attorney or find pro bono counsel are forced to navigate the complex and adversarial immigration system on their own, even though the government is always represented by a trained attorney. Although this is a longstanding problem, the number of children affected by it has grown significantly as increasing numbers of children flee violence in Central America and are placed into the deportation process upon their arrival in the United States.
To address this problem, in July 2014, we and our partners (the ACLU, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates) filed a nationwide class action lawsuit on behalf of children who are challenging the federal government’s failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out removal proceedings against them. The complaint charges the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s requirement of a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide legal representation to all children in deportation proceedings.
Contact: Melissa Crow, Legal Director, American Immigration Council, 1331 G St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 20005
Beth Werlin, Deputy Legal Director, American Immigration Council, 1331 G St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 20005
The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), founded at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1999, protects the fundamental human rights of individuals who flee persecution, with a special focus on women, children, and LGBT refugees. CGRS litigates impact asylum cases to advance the law, trains and mentors attorneys who represent asylum seekers and develops resources to support their cases, develops policy to improve U.S. immigration law and the immigration system for refugees and immigrants, and conducts in-country fact-finding on the root causes of the violence that compels people to flee their homes. Each year, CGRS attorneys serve as mentors and expert consultants and provide litigation resources for over 800 asylum cases and train nearly 3,000 attorneys on representing asylum seekers.
CGRS is co-counsel in Matter of R-P-, currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case involves a Mam Maya woman from Guatemala who endured severe domestic violence in a relationship she was forced into at the age of 15. An immigration judge denied her asylum, despite finding that the abuse she suffered constitutes both persecution and torture, because he held that the abuse was not on account of a protected ground. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the immigration judge’s decision. In March 2014, CGRS filed a request asking the Board to reconsider its dismissal of Ms. R-P‘s case and simultaneously appealed the Board’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. Among other points, the Center argued in both the motion and the appeal that the Board misapplied Ninth Circuit law on the standard for a particular social group when it required Ms. R-P-‘s group to be homogenous and narrow.
Matter of R-P- raises critical issues in asylum law concerning claims for women survivors of domestic violence and holds the potential to set precedent that could affect protections for women fleeing domestic and other gender-based violence. The funding provided by the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation will support continued litigation of Matter of R-P- to obtain lasting relief for this asylum seeker as well as to cement protections for women survivors of domestic violence who flee to the U.S. for safe haven.
Contact: Lisa Frydman, Associate Director and Managing Attorney, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, 200 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Children’s Rights is a national advocacy group working to reform failing child welfare systems on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children who depend on them for protection and care. Since 1995, we have been fighting to enshrine in the law of the land every child’s right to be protected from abuse and neglect and to grow up in a safe, stable, permanent home. Through tough legal action complemented by substantive policy expertise, we have won landmark victories and brought about sweeping improvements in the lives of abused and neglected children in more than a dozen states.
In the states where Children’s Rights is active, fewer children who have already been victimized by abuse and neglect at home suffer further maltreatment in foster care. More children receive the high-quality medical, educational, and other services they need to recover from the trauma they have suffered and regain the healthy childhood that is their right. And more children go home sooner to better lives and to safe, stable, permanent families.
In March 2011, Children’s Rights filed a class action in federal court seeking reform of the Texas child welfare system on behalf of approximately 12,000 abused or neglected children in long-term foster care statewide. The lawsuit, known as M.D. v. Perry, charges Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) with violating the constitutional rights of children who generally have been in foster care for at least a year, by routinely failing to find them safe, appropriate, and permanent new families—and therefore failing to meet its legal obligation to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of all children in its custody. The case is scheduled for a full trial starting in December 2014.
Contact: Sandy Santana, Interim Executive Director, 330 7th Avenue 4th Floor, New York NY 10001
Legal Voice is a regional nonprofit public interest organization that works to advance the legal rights of women and girls through high-impact litigation, legislative advocacy, and educational materials. Founded in 1978 as the Northwest Women’s Law Center, Legal Voice is based in Seattle and focuses its work in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.
The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prohibits states from making publicly available on the Internet any information regarding the filing of a domestic violence protection order if such publication would be likely to reveal the identity or location of the person protected by the order. Despite the law, many states continue to make such information available on the Internet. This compromises the safety and privacy of domestic violence survivors. Legal Voice intends to pursue litigation to ensure compliance with this law.
Contact: David Ward, Legal & Legislative Counsel, 907 Pine Street, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98101
Founded in 1996, Nebraska Appleseed is a nonprofit organization that fights for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. With expertise in addressing systemic problems and opportunities affecting thousands of people, we incorporate legal advocacy, community activism, and policy expertise to make a positive, sustainable difference in our four main areas of concentration – health care access, poverty, child welfare, and immigration. We take our work wherever we believe we can do the most good, whether that’s at the courthouse, in the statehouse or in the community. For more information about our programs and successes, please visit www.neappleseed.org.
On August 1, 2014, the case of Leiting-Hall v. Winterer commenced. Nebraska Appleseed filed this class-action lawsuit on behalf of two clients (a working, single mother and a three-person family) who have been unlawfully delayed from receiving urgent and necessary help providing food for their families though the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), seeking to represent a class of hundreds of households that receive SNAP.
The suit is against Kerry Winterer, the CEO of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Thomas Pristow, the Director of the DHHS Division of Children and Families. Winterer and Pristow are responsible for administering SNAP in Nebraska. Throughout the state, the SNAP program helps about 175,000 Nebraskans know where their next meal is coming from. Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, DHHS has systematically failed to follow federal and state rules which require SNAP to be provided to eligible households within set timeframes. Following these timeframes is vital, because the failure to do so means that hundreds of SNAP households do not receive assistance to purchase food when they need it. The suit seeks to enforce federal timeliness requirements in order to ensure these low-income Nebraska households are able to access SNAP in a timely way.
Contact: Mindy Bilderback, Grant Coordinator, 941 O St #920, Lincoln, NE 68508