Our Grants For 2019

The Board met during September 2018 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.

American Immigration Council

Established in 1987, the American Immigration Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council’s legal department contributes to this mission through impact litigation to protect and defend the rights of immigrants, the filing of amicus briefs to educate the courts about immigration law and immigrants’ rights, and technical assistance provided to immigration attorneys.

Moreno v. Nielsen, No. 1:18-cv-01135 (E.D.N.Y.), challenges a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) policy that unlawfully blocks otherwise eligible noncitizens with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from gaining lawful permanent (LPR) status. The case was filed on behalf of a class of TPS holders who, but for this policy, are eligible to become lawful permanent residents because of a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen or through their U.S. employer. TPS provides a temporary haven for noncitizens living in the United States when natural disasters or civil strife in their home countries render it unsafe for them to return. While holding TPS, a noncitizen is in a lawful, though non-permanent status; authorized to work; and protected from deportation. Most TPS holders have held this status for upwards of two decades and consequently have established deep roots in the United States. However, DHS is terminating TPS for six countries over the next 18 months and TPS holders from those countries will lose their protected status and eligibility to work and will become subject to deportation unless they can gain LPR status. Hundreds, if not thousands, of TPS holders are blocked from becoming LPRs solely due to USCIS’s unlawful policy. This policy states that TPS holders who entered the United States without inspection cannot demonstrate that they were “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the United States, a requirement to adjust to LPR status. However, as the Sixth and Ninth Circuits have both held, the plain language of the TPS statute itself deems a grant of TPS to be an inspection and admission for purposes of adjustment of status. The Eleventh Circuit has held the opposite. USCIS applies the Sixth and Ninth Circuit decisions to TPS holders living within those jurisdictions but refuses to do so for TPS holders living within the jurisdictions of the nine courts of appeals that have not ruled on the issue. As a result, whether these TPS holders will be able to remain with family and community depends on the arbitrariness of where they reside. The suit seeks to overturn the policy as applied in the jurisdiction of the nine courts of appeals that have not ruled on the issue.

Contact: Mary Kenney, Senior Attorney, 202-507-7512.

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

In 1999, following her groundbreaking legal victory in Matter of Kasinga, Karen Musalo founded the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) to meet the needs of asylum seekers fleeing gender-based violence. Since its inception, CGRS has helped thousands of advocates around the country secure protection for their clients. CGRS has also continued to litigate high-impact cases like Kasinga, achieving positive precedential decisions that have advanced the law for women, children, and LGBT individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries.

CGRS envisions a world where no refugee is denied her right to protection under U.S. and international law. We strive to achieve this vision by: 1) providing technical assistance and training to attorneys representing asylum seekers; 2) tracking and monitoring the adjudication of asylum cases nationwide to expose disparities and bias in decision-making; 3) undertaking strategic litigation to advance sound asylum laws and defend due process rights; 4) engaging in policy advocacy to align U.S. policies with international human rights norms; and 5) conducting international human rights fact-finding to document human rights abuses and address the root causes that drive migration.

In 2018 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervened in an asylum case involving a domestic violence survivor from El Salvador known as Matter of A-B-, certifying the case to himself for reconsideration. CGRS immediately joined the applicant’s legal team and began rallying attention to her case. In June Sessions issued a misguided and legally incorrect decision in A-B-, reversing a previous grant of asylum to our client and casting doubt on the viability of all asylum claims based on domestic violence, gang brutality, and other forms of persecution perpetrated by nongovernment actors. The ruling marked a clear attempt by Sessions to shut down access to asylum for the vast majority of individuals seeking protection at our southern border.

CGRS is now launching a multifaceted campaign to reverse Sessions’ decision in Matter of A-B-, including litigation as well as nationally coordinated public advocacy. With support from the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation, CGRS will challenge Sessions’ ruling in Matter of A-B- before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. We will work to secure a positive, precedential decision that upholds the right of women, children, and families fleeing persecution to seek asylum. To bolster our efforts we will coordinate a national amicus strategy in support of our arguments. A positive decision from the Fourth Circuit on this issue would improve the ability of asylum seekers to secure protection in the United States and restore the progress that has been achieved on behalf of those fleeing nongovernment persecution.

Contact: Moira Duvernay, Deputy Director, 200 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 565-4877.

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

NCLEJ works to advance the cause of economic justice for low-income families, individuals, and communities, using groundbreaking impact litigation, policy advocacy, and support for grassroots organizing. Because poverty disproportionately impacts communities of color and families headed by women, the Center applies this strategy to advance racial, immigrant, and gender justice. NCLEJ believes that this nation should ensure that all have access to the means to meet basic human needs and that all people are guaranteed an equal opportunity to participate. NCLEJ addresses a broad range of issues that impact low-income families. Our work focuses primarily, but not exclusively on preserving and maintaining access to government benefits; protecting and securing the rights of low-wage workers; combatting unlawful debt collection; and advocating for persons with disabilities. NCLEJ’s staff of award-winning experienced lawyers multiplies its impact by collaborating with major law firms and with civil rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights organizations.

NCLEJ was founded in 1965, in the heyday of the civil rights movement. From the very start, NCLEJ staff joined with southern civil rights lawyers in landmark cases, worked with community-based organizations around the country, won ground-breaking victories in the courts, and achieved major reforms in legislation and agency policies and practices. Through these early successes, NCLEJ demonstrated that the law can be a powerful instrument for improving the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society. NCLEJ has guaranteed access to benefits for hundreds of thousands of people providing a baseline of economic security to help stabilize low-income families and individuals, holding agencies accountable to comply with the law, and safeguarding important legal and constitutional rights.

Description of Project

The McDowell-Hartmann Foundation is generously helping to fund NCLEJ’s class action law suit, Black Love Resists et al v. City of Buffalo et al., which challenges the Buffalo Police Department’s systematic and unlawful targeting of communities of color and the City of Buffalo's aggressive, punitive traffic enforcement resulting in millions of dollars in ticket revenues on the backs of low-income drivers. Moreover, these are many of the same practices and policies that lead to community unrest in places like Ferguson, Missouri. NCLEJ and co-counsel brought the action on behalf of thousands of individuals as well as the organization Black Love Resists in the Rust, whose members have been harmed by the Checkpoints program. Since 2012, the Buffalo Police Department has conducted thousands of constitutionally impermissible “traffic safety” stops. The checkpoints were placed overwhelmingly in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, and police officers were issuing excessive traffic summons to increase city revenue. 91.4% of all check points were in majority Black or Latinx census tracts, and race was a driving factor in the location of these checkpoints.

The lawsuit aims to stop these discriminatory policing practices that have subjected communities of color in Buffalo to both unreasonable intrusion and relentless revenue harvesting through unfair ticketing, towing, suspensions, and arrests. This case arises at the intersection of two of NCLEJ”s ongoing areas of litigation focus- racial justice and unfair and abusive debt collection practices.

Contact Person: Claudia Wilner, wilner@nclej.org, 212-633-6967

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that works to protect and advance the rights of noncitizens by developing cutting-edge strategies to respond to unlawful immigration enforcement, government overreach, and efforts to erode immigrant rights. NIPNLG promotes justice and equality of treatment in all areas of immigration law, providing technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, jailhouse lawyers, and all advocates for immigrant rights. Through the generosity of the McDowell Foundation, NIPNLG will represent detained immigrant children at the Berks County Residential Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania. It will seek to force the state to revoke the facility’s license to run a child residential facility due to egregious regulatory violations related to health services, mental health care, and language access, as well as traumatic night-checks that repeatedly interrupt children’s sleep. Without a license, the child detention facility will no longer be able to operate, and ICE will be required to release children to the community pending their deportation proceedings. Questions about this grant may be directed to Elizabeth Simpson at esimpson@nipnlg.org.

Prisoner’s Legal Services of Massachusetts

Prisoners’ Legal Services is a Massachusetts nonprofit legal services office founded in 1972 that provides civil legal assistance to the approximately 20,000 people incarcerated in Massachusetts state prisons (Department of Correction facilities) and county jails and houses of correction. The organization promotes the safe, humane and lawful treatment of Massachusetts prisoners through civil rights litigation, administrative advocacy, client counseling, and outreach to policy makers and the public.

Prisoners’ Legal Services is challenging the Massachusetts law, M.G.L. c. 123, § 35, that authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of men suffering from alcohol and substance use disorders to Department of Correction prisons. Massachusetts is the only state in the country where men are civilly committed to a correctional institution for substance use. All other states recognize what public health experts know: addiction is not a crime for which people should be punished, but a medical condition that cries out for treatment.

James Pingeon, Litigation Director 
jpingeon@plsma.org 
617-482-2773 x113 

Prisoners' Legal Services 
50 Federal Street, 4th Floor 
Boston, MA 02110

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