While details remain limited regarding the status of migrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, lawyers across the state are ready to be deployed as needed in order to help them.
Late last month, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) announced its pro bono initiative to ensure the safety and well-being of the migrant children detained in facilities across the state. Since then, there has been an outpouring of support from lawyers and firms both in their willingness to provide legal counsel and through donations to the New York Bar Foundation.
"I am so proud of the NYSBA community's response to our efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of detained migrant children," said NYSBA President Michael Miller. "Unfortunately, we don't anticipate the immigration crisis coming to an end any time soon, and we recognize that there will be an ongoing need for pro bono assistance for individuals and families as they try to navigate our complex immigration system."
According to the New York Bar Foundation, NYSBA's non-profit charitable arm, donations have come in from all around the state, but also from across the country - California to Florida and neighboring states like Connecticut and New Jersey.
"The New York Bar Foundation established the "#NYLawyers4Children" fund to make special grants to trusted organizations providing pro bono legal services to the migrant children that have been separated from their families," said Foundation President Lesley Rosenthal.
"Our initial goal was $8,000 which has more than doubled. To date, we have received nearly $18,000 in donations for these efforts," continued Rosenthal. "Having competent legal representation can make all the difference in the outcome for these children and their families. I thank everyone that participated in this campaign."
While the extent of the current and future legal needs of the children and families is still unclear, many firms from across the state are ready to assist when called upon, including from Greenberg Traurig, Schiff Hardin, Norton Rose Fulbright, Goodwin Procter, The Coppola Firm and Kobre & Kim.
Dozens of individual attorneys have also volunteered to help. New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that the Unified Court System also welcomed the opportunity to partner with NYSBA to coordinate efforts on the children's behalf.
"As we continue to seek more information about the children and families, we are making a special appeal for attorneys who speak Spanish and those with immigration or Family Court experience to register with our online immigration portal at https://nysbaprobono.org/," said Miller.
Miller encourages any interested attorneys to create an account with NYSBA's online pro bono portal. Likewise, he encourages all organizations that are seeking volunteer attorneys to create a listing on the portal. Volunteers will be notified when and where additional pro bono opportunities arise.
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.
To make a contribution to #NYLawyers4Children, visit https://nylawyers4children.swell.gives/.