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AUGUST 2013

City Bar Shapes Immigration Policy Reform
In recent months, the Committee on Immigration & Nationality Law has lobbied on several critical aspects of The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). In its first reports on S.744 in April, the Committee praised the legislation’s steps to reduce detention and provide a right to counsel for low-income non-citizens' deportation proceedings, while urging further modifications. The Committee also worked with Senate proponents of the measure to oppose amendments that sought to undo the proposed reforms, and issued two letters opposing 15 such amendments proposed by Senators Grassley and Lee (click here and here). None of the amendments opposed by the Committee passed with the legislation. When S.744 was brought to the Senate floor for debate, the Committee again affirmed its earlier positions opposing unnecessary detention and obstacles to citizenship and ensuring humanitarian protections for detainees. As the focus shifted to the House, the Committee wrote in opposition to H.R. 2278, labeled the SAFE Act, if anything, a step backward in the quest for reform.

To learn more about the Committee's commentary and lobbying on S.744 and other ongoing legislation, visit their reports page or go to recent entries on the 44th St Blog.

Small Firm Mentoring Circle in Immigration Law
The City Bar is again organizing Mentoring Circles for small firm and solo practitioners as a way to provide a confidential and more personal forum that allows participants to hone law practice development and management skills, build relationships, expand referral networks, and engage in substantive discussions. Circles are being offered in the following areas: Litigation, Corporate Practice, General Practice, Family Law, Immigration Law and Intellectual Property. Circles begin meeting in September and will meet once a month through June. Each meeting will begin with a 30-minute reception where members of all Circles can network and meet with one another, followed by individual breakouts for each Circle lasting about one hour. Mentoring Circles are open only to City Bar members who are small firm and solo practitioners, and the annual cost of participation is $200. Please register here; additional information is available here.

Volunteers Sought for Monday Night Law Clinic
The Committee for Legal Services for Persons of Moderate Means in conjunction with the City Bar Justice Center is seeking volunteer attorneys to staff the Monday Night Law Clinic. MNL represents a diverse array of cases for low-income clients, with matters ranging from landlord-tenant disputes to divorce to bankruptcy. Many MNL clients come from immigrant communities and immigration issues often present themselves in their cases. Experienced immigration practioners can provide a unique perspective in fulfilling these clients' needs.
MNL attorneys go through two training sessions in September and volunteer one Monday evening a month at the clinic. To learn more or to apply, contact Clara Schwabe; the application must be filled out and sent in by September 3.

Summer Series Spotlights Immigration Law
On July 18, the City Bar's hosted Careers in Immigration Law, part of the 2013 Summer Series. With over 100 law students, recent law school graduates and practicing attorneys in attendance, the program featured a panel of distinguished immigration law practioners who recounted their personal experiences with clients while discussing the various intersections of legal practice within immigration law including international business transaction, LGBT Rights, and juvenile advocacy. Following the panel, the speakers and three other immigration practioners led small group round-table discussions with the attendees.

Careers in Immigration Law panel from left to right: Clare R. Thomas, Staff Attorney, African Services Committee; Matthew Blaisdell, Staff Attorney, Jose L. Saravia Legal Services, Inc.; Shalyn Fluharty, Immigration Attorney, Catholic Charities; Cyrus D. Mehta, Managing Attorney, Cyrus D. Mehta and Associates; Lenni Benson, Professor, New York Law School and Chair, Committee on Immigration & Nationality Law. Courtney Fitzgibbons, Chair, Career and Advance Management Committee, introduces the panel.

CLE

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Child Soldiers
In a joint letter to Congress, the Committees on African Affairs, International Human Rights and Immigration and Nationality Law urged that the proposed Immigration and Modernization Act (SB 744) be amended so that child soldiers are no longer barred from gaining lawful status in the United States. Notwithstanding the United States' strong condemnation of those who recruit and employ child soldiers around the world, there are, ironically, two provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act that, unforeseen by the original drafters, are now being used to bar former child soldiers themselves from gaining any status in the United States. The unexpected consequence of these provisions affects a large number of alien applicants who would otherwise be permitted to apply for admission or lawful status. Under the current provisions, child soldiers and their families come to the United States as refugees, but rather than gaining refugee status, discover that they are subject to permanent inadmissibility.

Immigration Proposals in the House
The Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law issued a report expressing opposition to H.R. 2278, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act), which would expand immigration detention and further limit due process. The report specifically notes that it opposes the legislation because it: 1) provides for indefinite mandatory detention of immigrants without counsel; 2) requires Federal mandatory detention of immigrants at state request; 3) increases funding for detention, regardless of risk, rather than repealing the "bed quota" at immigration detention facilities; and 4) expands criminal penalties for illegal entry and reentry offenses, resulting in disproportional punishment that will increase the costs of immigration reform.

Impact of Immigration Detainers on Criminal Justice Resources
In a joint letter, the Committees on Immigration and Nationality Law and Criminal Courts expressed opposition to provisions in the SAFE Act that would restrict local efforts to limit the impact of immigration detainers on criminal justice resources. Immigration detainers harm New York City residents by separating them from their families and legal resources in the city and impose significant practical and fiscal costs on the city's criminal justice system. In addition, the SAFE Act would severely and unnecessarily restrict localities' authority to make appropriate decisions regarding the use of such detainers and about their law enforcement resources.

Inclusion of Same-Sex Spouses in Family Reunification Immigration Laws
In a joint letter to Congress, the Committees on Civil Rights, Immigration and Nationality Law, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, and Sex and Law expressed support for Senator Leahy’s amendments to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act , S. 744, which would include same-sex spouses and permanent partners in family reunification immigration laws. These amendments, the report notes, update immigration law to reflect advances around the world in recognizing same-sex partnerships and protect the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with same-sex spouses or permanent partners to bring their partners to the U.S. as heterosexual couples do.

Committee Involvement--It's Never too Late
Committees are how the City Bar’s work gets done. Working on a committee can give you great experience while opening up a number of career doors, some you may not even anticipate.

A full list of the City Bar committees along with a brief description of each and an application form can be found on the City Bar’s website. As a number of City Bar committees have more applicants than available slots, please consider applying to more than one committee.