Mondaq: Lighting a Path for Immigrant Children in New Orleans

February 28, 2018 – Gillian Egan 

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. . .

The children cross the border alone, without friends or family, sometimes walking, sometimes riding in the back of a truck, train or car. They come from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries, leaving their homes and communities to escape difficult conditions, journeying to the United States often to be reunited with a family member, who they haven’t seen for many years. Once they arrive, they begin the hard work of assimilation, finding and enrolling in a school, learning the language, trying to make friends and become accustomed to living in a new country.

They are also often faced, almost immediately, with navigating the complicated machine of U.S. immigration enforcement. Many of these children will seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a path toward legal permanent residency for children who can show they were abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent, and that it is not in their best interest to return to their home country. The problem for these children – even those entitled to relief – is that they are not entitled to counsel if they cannot afford one.  Having a lawyer in an immigration proceeding of any kind makes a big difference, but especially when the immigrant is a child.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO), through its immigration outreach, assists these children in navigating the legal process, and Proskauer lawyers represent children as pro bono clients through this program. A large number of child immigrants have been or are being assisted in seeking SIJS or asylum status by associates in the New Orleans office. Proskauer alum Benjamin Saper now works full time in the Immigration Services group at CCANO, which has further solidified Proskauer’s collaboration with CCANO. New Orleans associates Randy Bunnell, Tulio Chirinos, Gillian Egan, and Ben Flaxenburg each represent a pro bono client through CCANO’s immigration outreach program.

The ongoing relationship between Catholic Charities and Proskauer gives associates the opportunity to run cases, develop client relationships, make appearances in court, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of those in need.

Our New Orleans team looks forward to continuing to help some of their community’s most vulnerable – undocumented children – and make sure that these children receive all of the protection and services available to them here, in their new home, the United States.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty

Read the original Mondaq article.