June 25, 2018: State Bar Association Leads Pro Bono Initiative to Ensure the Safety and Well-Being of Migrant Children Detained at Facilities in New York State

New York Bar Foundation Launches #NYLawyers4Children Fund to Support Efforts

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) is bringing together pro bono leaders from several New York law firms along with attorneys around the state to pursue legal measures as necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of migrant children who have been separated from family members after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, NYSBA President Michael Miller announced today.

Participating firms include Greenberg Traurig and Schiff Hardin.

New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that the Unified Court System will work to facilitate actions by attorneys and child care and other organizations to help protect the legal rights of the detained children.

The New York Bar Foundation, NYSBA’s non-profit charitable arm, will raise funds and make grants to support these efforts through a restricted fund to be called NYLawyers4Children.

“The current policy of separating minor migrant children from their parents as part of U.S. border policy is cruel, heartless and un-American,” Miller said. “The forced separation of the children from their parents deprives both parent and child of reasonable due process and is a gross departure from the norms of a civilized society.”

“As necessary, we will take action to ensure that the custodial entity respects the children’s needs and that the rights of every one of these children are protected,” Miller added. “In some cases, that may mean commencing legal proceedings to seek the appointment of guardians.”

“The State court system welcomes the opportunity to partner with the New York State Bar Association to coordinate efforts on behalf of these vulnerable children. As part of this joint endeavor, the court system will expedite the adjudication of these guardianship proceedings, should they become necessary, to ensure protection of the rights and needs of migrant children separated from family members at the border who have been placed in New York facilities. I am grateful to New York State Bar President Michael Miller for his leadership in mobilizing this initiative and proud of New York’s legal community for once again stepping forward in a time of urgent need,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.           

“The New York Bar Foundation is proud to partner with NYSBA by raising funds and making timely grants to trusted organizations providing pro bono legal services to migrant children separated from their parents and now physically located in New York State,” said Foundation President Lesley Rosenthal. “Our initiative, #NYLawyers4Children, will also help support NYSBA's training and coordination efforts in this regard. This is a matter of conscience, heart, and rule of law principles.”

“Greenberg Traurig is committed to protecting children’s rights,” said Caroline Heller, chair of the firm’s global pro-bono program.  “We are proud to be working with the NYSBA and attorneys throughout New York to provide due process to children separated from their families.”

“The border situation is a tragic one, and we are eager to do everything we can to help reunite these children with their families,” said Christine McGuinness of Schiff Hardin. “Getting the firm involved was a no-brainer, as Schiff’s pro bono program has supported immigrants facing persecution of all kinds, including helping immigrant children threatened with deportation to remain in the country.”

Miller noted that media reports indicate that migrant children have been sent to facilities in many areas of New York State. He said that NYSBA will be collaborating on the pro bono efforts with the association’s Immigration Representation, Children and the Law, and Families and the Law Committees, and will reach out to other bar associations throughout the state to help coordinate with local counsel as necessary and appropriate. 

“Many New York State Bar Association members have already expressed to me their willingness to assist in this effort, and we welcome participation from attorneys throughout the state,” Miller said.

Attorneys interested in participating in NYSBA’s effort can contact Stacey Whiteley at 518-487-5688 or swhiteley@nysba.org

To make a contribution to NYLawyers4Children, visit www.tnybf.org/NYLawyers4Children

About the New York State Bar Association

The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

About the New York Bar Foundation

The New York Bar Foundation is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization that is the charitable arm of the New York State Bar Association. It is governed by a board of directors that includes distinguished lawyers from across the state of New York. Through its grant program, the Foundation supports the law-related programs of local legal services agencies, nonprofits, bar associations and other organizations throughout the state. www.tnybf.org

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Contact: Dan Weiller
Managing Director of Marketing and Communications
dweiller@nysba.org
518/487-5500