Immigrants to the United States confront a host of challenges, including language, culture, and participation, a lack of social support, employment barriers, and discrimination. And the tangle of state and federal immigration laws can exacerbate all of those issues.
Finding fairness in the legal system is tough for immigrants, and the lack of expertise and experience in the field of immigration law makes it tougher. So the Immigrant Justice Corps, armed with $1.3 million in funding from the Robin Hood Foundation, is tackling the problem with a new service program. The initiative will recruit 25 high-performing graduating law students from around the country, train them in immigrant law and related issues, and place them in community-based organization for immigrants in New York City.
The idea is to remedy the shortage of legal representation for immigrants of modest means. Judge Robert A. Katzmann, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, told the New York Times, “It’s a very simple concept, but it’s one that will not only ensure fairness for immigrants but will infuse our legal system with a generation of lawyers committed to serving those in need.”
The IJC will seek out and recruit top lawyers and graduates and places them in non-profit legal service providers and organizations to assist clients with naturalization, deportation defense, and affirmative applications for asylum seekers, juveniles, and victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking.
With a mandate to “fight poverty like a New Yorker,” the Robin Hood foundation funds and partners with whatever they find to be the most effective initiatives in the city. In 2011, they granted over $146 million to programs and nonprofits aimed at poverty in the city, including child health organizations, charter schools, legal representation for students, AIDS treatment and counseling services, employment services, homeless assistance programs, and many others. Over 25 years, the Robin Hood Foundation has awarded $1.25 billion to organizations in New York.
Since immigration status is directly linked to economic condition, it’s easy to see the appeal of the IJC’s Fellowship program for Robin Hood. This latest grant looks to the future by training early-career immigration attorneys while they’re still wearing their mortarboards. The Immigrant Justice Corps’ Justice Fellows will be hosted in clusters of two to four in legal services offices and receive an annual salary of $47,000 with benefits. The Fellows also receive loan repayment assistance for their student loans, and are eligible for the IJC’s professional development programs.
But when the Fellowship concludes at the end of two to three years, these young lawyers will be highly trained and deeply embedded in the immigrant rights community. Applicants for the fellowship are directed to the Justice Corps website.
You can read more about the Robin Hood Foundation here.