Children's Aid Community Schools Respond to the Concerns of Immigrant Families

New York, NY – On December 7, 2016, a record number of concerned immigrants attended an immigration clinic at the Mirabal Sisters Campus, a Children’s Aid Society community school in Washington Heights, New York City. The clinic, now in its 10th year, is held twice a year, in partnership with the City Bar Justice Center's Public Service Network (CBJC).
“Over 80 people participated, our maximum had been 70, but this time we had to make an exception. This is an immigrant community and there’s a great deal of fear about what may happen after January 20,” explained Fatima Reyes, Children’s Aid parent coordinator at the school. “We had 26 lawyers and more than enough interpreters, still we had to extend the consults for over an hour. And on December 20 we are holding a town hall, where three experienced CBJC lawyers will answer general questions to those that couldn’t be part of the clinic… We expect a large number of participants.”
CBJC works with Children's Aid in a number of ways, including the provision of town halls, workshops, free legal clinics, and pro-bono legal services, as needed, for the agency’s immigrant families. But the clinics at MSC have become their favorites because according to the organizers, they work like a clock. “Children’s Aid transformed a large junior high school lunchroom into office-like private workstations; innovatively using folded cafeteria tables as dividers.  With great finesse, they mobilized clients to attend the clinic—an overwhelming task,” wrote Danny Alicea, the lawyer who organizes the clinic, on a blog after his first clinic in 2014.
The Children’s Aid community schools are responsive to the challenges faced by their constituents.
Thus, the fragile immigration status faced by many of them has been a concern from the start. Too often, undocumented immigrants have to rely on unethical individuals to answer their questions about changing their immigration status or bringing family members from their countries of origin. Not only are they charged exorbitant fees but are frequently given false information and hopes. By partnering with CBJC, Children’s Aid has provided access to sound legal advice and information and, when needed, referrals to low-cost, or pro-bono ethical, highly qualified, immigration attorneys. Our ongoing partnership with the City Bar Justice Center, will continue to help our families, immigrant or not, become better informed about their rights and the resources available to them.